looking forward, looking back

Lynne Cohen


Since the early 1970s, Montreal-based photographer Lynne Cohen has focused on the absurd humour and disturbing aspects of public and private interior spaces. She captures what lurks in the corners of lobbies, spas, offices, laboratories, men’s clubs, and military installations. We walk through such spaces most of our lives—on our way to the doctor or work—and though they are real, they often look like theatre sets: devoid of familiarity, comfort, or human presence.

Always uninhabited, the furniture becomes humanoid: the couch a culprit, the carpet alien, the lights threatening. The longer you look at Cohen’s pictures, the more you may notice objects that seem odd or out of place, discoveries that can be spooky and ridiculously funny. Viewing these eerie images, you are never certain whether you are observing a photograph, or the photograph is observing you. In this exhibition, the blend of Cohen’s vintage and contemporary works presents an incredible motif and one can clearly see the common thread of a dialogue that spans four decades.

Cohen is the recipient of prizes that include the inaugural Scotiabank Photography Award (2010) and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2005).