Linda Kohen: Spare Room | Curatorial text
Linda Kohen: Spare Room
September 14 - November 16, 2020
Having fled from Jewish persecution in Italy in 1939, and then from the Uruguay coup d’état in 1973, Linda Kohen has a profound understanding of what it means to watch something disappear from your world. From this uncertainty arose Kohen’s understanding that her greatest keepsake would be her memory. For over seventy years, Linda Kohen has painted her self portrait–an ever evolving, intimate reflection on her daily life.
Her canvas paintings, mimicking the instantaneity and chance compositions of family photo albums, enjoin the viewer in her perspective, and in turn, her memory. It is through sharing her perspective that we can begin to understand how the artist continually surveils herself in relation to the world around her. In some instances, her presence is implied but not seen: we see her shower, or an empty table that has been set. In others, a sliver of her body appears in the frame, and we as the spectator, join her ascending a staircase or lying in bed.
Twelve panels painted with life-size scenes from inside the Kohen’s home make up her 2005 installation, El Gran Biombo. Their angled configuration obliges the spectator to walk along and peer around the screen, as if to wander the corridors of someone’s home for the first time. Forty-four charcoal drawings that Kohen created in isolation reflect El Gran Biombo, so that the spectator can walk between the original and its echo, with fifteen years hanging heavy in the air.
We are not inquiring to look through or at the images, but to occupy the spare room within. The spare room– that implied absence felt in empty spaces and subdued colors –becomes indistinguishable with longing.