Leslie Sacks Gallery is pleased to present Bruce Cohen Studies. The exhibition features fifteen pastel on paper studies by Los Angeles based artist Bruce Cohen. The artist’s striking images of interiors and still lifes take on new life in an intimate and expressive format.
Bruce Cohen is known for his stunning, enigmatic paintings of still lifes and interiors. Though rooted in the principles of realism, his work is constructed from an amalgamation of memories and observations. Cohen orchestrates his tightly rendered scenes in a methodical manner, combining variations of flowers and piecing together portions of familiar rooms, windows and doorways from his home. Although these interiors do not necessarily exist exactly as he paints them, they do exist this way in his mind. The paintings on canvas are painted with precision and with strict regard to the geometry of the elements of the environment, however the drawings give way to a soft and expressive gestural manner free of rigor and formality.
The drawings presented in this exhibition are an instrumental part of Cohen’s process, providing rare insight into the development of his oil paintings. The spontaneity in this format and medium affords Cohen an unrestricted, free-flowing, more exploratory approach to a subject. Here he can take risks and experiment freely without any self imposed scrutiny.
It begins with an initial inspiration—whether it’s something historical, a string of musical notes or even something in nature. He begins sketching a linear graphite pencil drawing to capture the essence of the idea. The introduction of the color pastels is primarily to explore light and compositional elements, and is what Cohen calls the “observation collage process.” There are certain breakthroughs working with pastels that he wouldn’t necessarily discover if he went directly to oil on canvas. With oil paint one mixes pigments to form color, but with pastels one must layer colors to arrive at a desired hue. Through the layering process, he often winds up with surprising color ideas for his oil paintings that are altogether unpredictable.
While studying drawing at the College of Creative Studies at University of California Santa Barbara, Bruce Cohen realized that, “…drawing is the fundamental way you learn to see…” and is arguably the most important skill as a visual artist. Knowing how to draw allows an artist to control their imagery—Cohen can ultimately alter geometry, challenge flatness of space and rework dimensionality and volume because he understands intrinsically the fundamentals of drawing. Artists such as Odilon Redon, Edgar Degas and Eduoard Vuillard who all famously worked in pastels inspire Cohen’s work. He particularly loves how Degas captured light in his bather figure drawings and continues to be captivated by Redon’s mythological imagery.
Bruce Cohen studied at the Universities of California, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Painting for over forty years, his work is held in numerous esteemed public and private collections; The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Art, San Jose Museum of Art, Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Palm Springs Desert Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, among others. Bruce Cohen lives and works in Santa Monica, California.