Jeff Cowen Recent Work

07 April - 23 JunE 2018


As from 6 April 2018 Michael Werner Kunsthandel will be presenting an exhibition in Cologne with new works by Jeff Cowen. Following a period in which he was intensely occupied with portraits and photography both of landscapes and sculpture, Cowen has more recently turned again to painting and to abstract forms and structures. This is by no means completely new in his work. In his solo exhibition „Capturing Eclipse“ in the Kunsthalle Bremerhaven (Sept - Nov 2015) for instance, his photography explored the non-visible or only vaguely visible. Abstract form has always been important to him, irrespective of the subject matter.

Some of his work is produced from negatives in the classic tradition of photography. Others, however, are created directly in the dark room. The photographic process relies heavily on the choice of paper, on composition, development times and the use of chemicals. Cowen's use of the brush and other techniques in the dark room adds a dimension of painting so that the photographic structure remains visible and is even enhanced. Following the work in the dark room, parts of the pictures are reworked with bleach, paint or collage. Deliberate horizontal scars in the paper create a structure that gives the photographs a sculptural quality. Collage imbues the work with thematic continuity and heterogenic layers merge to create a harmonious composition which the individual parts lack.

„Once you have spent so much time studying the process of seeing, you come to realise that all perceptions are based on abstract forms. All the small details lose their significance and you are left with pure form – the relationship between forms and the rectangular frame.“ (Jeff Cowen in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, 2018)

Jeff Cowen was born in New York City in 1966. He studied Oriental Studies at New York University including time at Waseda University in Tokyo and graduated with distinction in 1988. He went on to take photographs in the streets of New York, working as an assistant to Larry Clark and Ralph Gibson. His artistic approach changed during the 1990s following intensive studies in painting and drawing. This period was to set the tone for his artistic exploration of the relationship between the photographic image and abstraction. His first individual exhibition in a museum was entitled „Photoworks“ and took place in the Ludwigmuseum in Koblenz in 2016/17. The exhibition was also shown in the Huis Marseille, a museum of photography in Amsterdam. Several institutional exhibitions in China have been planned for 2018/19. Jeff Cowen lives and works in Berlin.