Richard Cohen’s body of work prevails from his pedigree studying at the San Francisco School of Fine Art. The institution is credited as the birthplace of West Coast Abstraction, one of the most important movements in the Post World War ll era, where luminaries ranging from Clyfford Still to Mark Rothko served as professors. The school, under the tutelage of Douglas Macagy, asserted that the strokes made on the canvas were the active expressions of the most innate sense of feeling and the very form of the psychological state of being.
Richard Cohen is unique amongst this summit of West Coast Abstract Expressionism in that his psychological expression was the outcome of one of the most compelling life stories amongst those of his artist colleagues. This exhibition serves to bridge how painting served as a catharsis from a world of hellish consequences amongst a miasma of carnage (serving in the South Pacific in World War ll) to being one of the original founders of the renowned 1960′s commune Taylor Camp and its idealistic foray into an utopian world and the arrival of Satori’s bliss.
The exhibition will begin with the recently discovered photographs taken by Cohen as a marine combat photographer for 10th Battalion in the battles of the Solomon and Marshall Islands from 1942-44 during World War ll. These photographs will be printed for the first time in a limited edition and signed by the artist.
The camera, which felt like a protective shield throughout the war, enabled Cohen to make the transition into civilian work life where he opened a studio in New York’s Greenwich Village specializing in nude portraits. Later he returned to San Francisco to become an active member of the Beat Generation scene.
It was there that Cohen enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts ( now the S.F. Art Institute,) to study painting and sculpture.
The faculty had included the famed photographer, Ansel Adams, the post Dada a painters David Park along with Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko who was on campus from 1947-48 and under the influence of Still transformed his impetus of Surrealism to that of abstraction. Marcel Duchamp was also asked to teach at the school.There Cohen studied under Hassel Smith, Elmer Bischoff and explored the post Dada curriculum that had been established by Douglas Macagy.
Abstraction began to serve as a ritualistic catalyst for the deeply rooted scars that rose to the surface with experiments in psychoanalysis Cohen began to undergo. At this time, Cohen’s paintings unleashed a fury of tension into startling color texture and composition that revealed a great psychic transition.
One of the greatest influences to the Bay Area culture at this time amongst a migration from the East was Allan Watts who wrote The Way of Zen in 1957. Cohen became a Zen Buddhist master and became very involved with a new generation that actively protested a very different war.
Cohen left San Francisco in 1968 to become one of the original founders of Taylor Camp one of the first hippie communes in Hawaii and one of the most renowned of the alternative culture of the 1960′s. Members recall Cohen as one of the most enigmatic forces of their lives a “charlatan of truths,” who would break his subjects until they would unleash a fury of mental cleansing and an awakened state Satori. One of these Taylor Camp members, John Wythe White would cast him as Fed The Zen, the central character of High Beautiful Wave that recalled the early days of Taylor Camp.
This exhibition presents Cohen’s paintings as a seminal document via a storyboard of psychic imprints representing a critical transformation amongst one of the most compelling of artist life life stories. Photos from the Marshall and Solomon Islands will be presented while films of Taylor Camp will be screened This exhibition will portray the psychological nexus of the Abstract Expressionist Movement based on the vivid power of representing the workings of the psychic terrain, a catharsis that allowed a departure from a world of carnage into that of the threshold of bliss.
Marshall Islands 1944
Dick Cohen Mixed Media Oil on Canvas
Taylor Camp 1969