Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alan Cohen

I came across a website belonging to an artist named Alan Cohen. His work is terrible and interesting. I love how he titles the left column somewhat ironically, "Today's Menu", which contains links to his different bodies of work.

Mr. Cohen breaks down the meaning of this painting on his website:

In the picture on the website the father has one hand on the boy's shoulder, as if to comfort him. But examination of the boy's posture and expression reveals that he feels rigid and held back, as if he is angry and blazing with repressed rage but cannot express it; the situation is made all the more complex by the double-bind feeling that the father is only trying to do his best; so the boy feels guilty and angry at resenting his hold. Another hint as to what is really going on is the shadow. In the painting the boy does not have a shadow of his own, which suggests that he does not really exist for the father (and hence for himself). Thus his self is entirely absorbed and devoured by his father. This is also emphasised in the picture by using brighter colours in parts of the picture to which the boy has no access. His life is dull and grey, indeed without love; his father steals the light from him and makes the boy an extension of himself.

Pardon my sarcasm, I love how he felt he had to explain the image to us. This is why I hate narrative painting, yet love it at the same time. You have a poor man's trove of symbols and meanings most people can understand, mostly derived from 19th-20th century psychological theory. They're staid, but cliche for a reason. Yet, the predictability of this approach is boring and without a process of renewal. In other words, layers get thin after repeated reads. I guess narrative painting is like playing James Brown's "I feel Good" at a party.
It's popular for a reason, but most of the time I'd rather be playing something else. This work charms and disgusts me at the same time.

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