Friday, May 5, 5 PM - 8 PM
17 Elliot St, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301
Writers, artists, and editors of The Hopper will be celebrating the release of our second print issue at Headroom Stages in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Join us for:
food! drink! readings!
a display of new & old works by local printmaker Brian D. Cohen!
I have selected work from the past fifteen years on astronomical and cosmographical themes. Many of these images are prompted by imagery from the Renaissance. Prints from this historical era often represent theoretical and speculative conjecture on the fundamental nature of reality. Natural philosophy (which would later be called science) encompassed metaphysics, and astronomical images of the time have an embedded philosophical worldview. These images often look naïve or wildly fanciful (though where directed observed, as in Galileo’s drawings of the moon through a telescope, they are extraordinarily accurate). In these prints the world is summarized and embodied; they represent a kind of hypothetical schema of the nature of things, revelatory representations of cosmic truths, a Western mandala.
During the fifteenth century, cosmographical imagery appeared in the form of printed tarot cards. Modeled on Renaissance cosmography, The Fool’s Journey, an artist’s book I based on the major arcana of the traditional tarot deck, is a visual portrayal of a philosophical world-view, each card presenting a universal archetype of human experience and a parallel, symbolic element or quality of the physical world.
I have also included etchings from my 2007 book Pierrot Lunaire, based on the dark, caustic, and poignant 1912 song cycle by Arnold Schoenberg. The etchings are printed twice on each page—in intaglio and relief, a visual analogy to the sudden and startling reversals of emotional tone from tenderness to despair in the music, and the poems are printed in their original French, the German of the song cycle, and my own translations into English. The lunar sphere is a recurrent motif in imagery shifting from the Madonna and Child to an exploding skull.
Several other more recent etchings on view are derived from the seventeenth-century emblem book, whose imagery sparks associations and diverse meanings of key elements of the world through schematic and formal spatial arrangements and accompanying aphorisms. The physical is displayed in order to reveal the spiritual, the metaphysical, the abstract, and the symbolic. The emblem book intended to “instruct the eye of understanding.”
I embrace themes of loss, futility, destruction, and unexpected, redemptive beauty, themes tied to the tradition of printmaking, whose imagery has always tended toward critical commentary and serious contemplation, and often toward humor and irony as well. The process of etching is physical and elemental, requiring force and pressure, inviting aggression and then delicacy, conjoining fire, water, earth, and air. There is something about setting an image into metal that implies permanence, duration, and enduring presence.