Harold L. Cohen (b. 1925), At the Wall, March 2006; linocut on paper, 1/20, 8 7/8 x 12 inches (plate) 12 x 18 inches (sheet); Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of the Artist, 2016
The Past is Present
Painting and Prints by Harold L. Cohen
On View Friday, August 9–Thursday, October 31, 2019
Harold L. Cohen is a rebel. During World War II he joined the Navy and served on a ship in the South Pacific. He found the racism and anti-Semitism on that ship so appalling that he wrote a letter to his senator from Pearl Harbor to complain about it. He said that the enemy was aboard the ship. The letter was later published in PM, a liberal paper published in New York from 1940-48. When his superiors on that ship found out about the letter, they didn’t like it, but he was good at his job, so they left him alone. It was there that he learned that your skills keep you alive, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Over the next fifty years Cohen worked at various colleges and universities teaching design. He also worked with the Institute for Behavioral Research at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois and later served as Dean of the School of Architecture and Design at the University at Buffalo. His past is filled with many accomplishments. He says that art must reflect an appreciation of all people, and that he must do what he believes in.
The exhibition The Past is Present: Paintings and Prints by Harold L. Cohen focuses on work by the artist created over the last twenty years. After retiring from teaching Cohen has focused on painting printmaking and sculpture. Works included in the exhibition focus on the past and present atrocities committed by authoritarian regimes. Numerous works from Germany and Europe reflect on the horrors of the Nazi genocide during World War II and its aftermath. Concentration camps in Belgium, Germany and Poland are depicted. Also included are images of refugees from Darfur effected by the genocide in Western Sudan. Images from Israel of some of the historically important sights that the artist visited are included as well. These represent both the struggles of the Jewish people, and the solace that the historic homeland provides.