Bernard Cohen Zany Balances 1973–4

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Artwork details

Artist
Bernard Cohen born 1933
Title
Zany Balances
Date 1973–4
Medium Acrylic paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 2743 x 1368 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1974
Reference
T01867
Not on display

Display caption

This painting's double square format is that of Cohen's dining table. Though following a clear programme, Cohen developed an increasingly complex disposition of forms, as happens in a meal. He first painted the upper half black and the lower white. Over this he painted rectangular and elliptical panels in twos. The second of each pair repeated the first's imagery; it was placed in the opposite square, in as near as possible to the same position. But in repeating a panel Cohen would alter its size, so literal equivalence of positions became impossible. The painting ended when the last 'reasonable' space was filled. Cohen was attracted to the ellipse because it gave a stronger sense than the rectangle of both containment and direction. He requires that the painting be hung with the tilted horizontals of the ellipses parallel to the floor. The 'Zany' is the buffoon in the Commedia dell'Arte. His performance is absurd and an act of improvisation. The strangely-'balanced' angle of the painting reminds us that every painting is an act of contrivance.

September 2004

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