The Village Voice


Nov 27, 2007

R.C. Baker

A stunted column sporting mysterious control knobs rises amid five hard-plastic bubble chairs in a dingy lobby, bulbous white visitations from the 1980s. Toting an eight-by-10 camera and black-and-white film, photographer Lynne Cohen seeks out spaces that project a sense of "sadness or an asphyxiating order." Untitled (Concave walls)—shot sometime in the '70s (Cohen is lackadaisical about dates)—features a lounge chair set on the dark square of a large checkerboard-floor pattern; a side table sits on the adjoining white block. The curved background walls are unevenly lit, and scorch marks surround the ceiling fixtures, as if the lights have burned 24/7 with no one to notice. In another typically rigorous composition, Untitled (Formica planter, aluminum walls), elegant, angular reflections contrast with battered corners and drooping plants. There are no people in these forlorn lobbies, classrooms, and waiting areas, but the shabby carpets and uneven moldings represent the shadow that falls between an architect's pristine geometries and a contractor's cut-rate materials. Yet Cohen also finds humor through her lens, framing a pair of stacked TVs facing two chairs, mute furnishings awaiting shut-ins who can't agree on a program. In an '80s shot, overstuffed chairs and freestanding ashtrays pose under irregularly shaped, atrociously painted pictures of cowboys and covered wagons—perhaps the lingering thought balloons of unsuccessful job candidates or clients kept waiting way too long.