Mark Cohen: True Color

Aug 01, 2009

By William Meyers

Almost the entire left side of “Legs and Boy in Pool, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1977” is taken up with the flesh tones of a woman’s legs bent at the knees. A little of a black bathing suit is visible between her thighs, and part of a white plastic chaise longue where her feet must be. On the right side of the picture is the green grass of a backyard, the red wood of a fence, and the bright aqua-blue trapezoid of the end of a distant swimming pool. The head of a boy with black hair sticks up from the corner of the pool and looks toward the legs through the oval frame of a red diving mask. Mark Cohen was part of the first generation to master the art of color photography so that color is indispensable to his work.

Mr. Cohen was born in Wilkes-Barre in 1943, and he photographs the working-class life in and around his hometown. The “Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking, Scranton, PA, 1977” is about 12 years old and mugs for the camera in front of three of his friends. The young boy in “Karate Stance, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1977” and the “Girl with Bat and Ball, Plymouth, PA, 1977” are other examples of Mr. Cohen’s appealing handling of both children and color. All we see of “The Woman with Red Lips Smoking, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1975” is her mouth and one aged hand holding a lit cigarette. The prints in this exhibition benefit from being made with the complex dye transfer process which produces rich, deeply saturated colors.

Mark Cohen: True Color
Hasted Hunt
529 W. 20th St., third floor
Through Aug. 28