Decoding Luisa Cohrs’ Exhibition
Magic Realism: Luisa Cohrs continues through Saturday, August 15, during normal Gallery hours: Tue-Fri 12- 5 and Sat 11-2. It also will be open during the August First Friday Art Walk, August 7 5 – 8 pm and the evening of August 15 for a performance by Shar Mahony, An Evening With Frida at 7:30.
The exhibition at Art Space Vincennes, in Indiana, consists of 43 pieces. Cohrs also created a six by seventeen foot temporary drawing on a wall, combining several motifs, which provide a key for understanding the entire show. The following list of motifs provides personal and social clues that help decode the work.
• Corn, a crop important to many Indiana farmers as it is in Colombia.
• Folding leaves, Cohrs associates with folds in handkerchiefs raised at the funeral of a liberal Colombian presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galan, assassinated by the Medellin drug cartel. He was the leading candidate at the time, popular for his anti-drug agenda.
• “…the fragrance of sleeping hair”, a poetic metaphor in a poem by
Mallarmé that Cohrs associates with the hair “tucked within” an ear of corn, and memory.
• Doilies, a symbol of the privileged versus the poor, used to protect the dining table where they ate their meals, popular in the 17th century with nobles and royalty and still used as Cohrs grew up in Colombia.
Across the middle of the drawing are poetic contemplations in English in two lines bracketed in segments by the folding leaves of the corn stalks. The words can be loosely read straight across the whole drawing, or up and down within each segment. Either way at first glance they are poetically cryptic. They are a direct reference to Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Hérodiade in the following excerpt translated by Henry Weinfield:
“Sometimes she sang an incoherent song.
the bed of vellum sheets,
Useless and closed–not linen!—vainly waits,
Bereft now of the cherished grammary
That spelled the figured folds of reverie,
The silken tent that harbored memory,
The scent of sleeping hair. Were these its treasure?”
These lines contemplate memories recorded on vellum sheets, a poem or book(?), and a mourning of another time through such metaphors.
On the bottom part of the temporary drawing, a bit of writing has been extracted from Rosario
Tijeras, a novel by Jorge Franco (Seven Stories Press), WWp. 23: “No sabemos lo larga que es nuestra historia pero sentimos su peso… el dia en que nacio no llego cargando pan, sino que traia la desgracia bajo el brazo.” Translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa: “We don’t know how long our history is, but we can feel its weight. And Rosario has borne it since time immemorial; for that reason, when she was born, she didn’t come bearing bread under her arms, but misfortune.” (p. 33)
The character, Rosario, named after the rosary in the Catholic faith, is not provided for by God, then, and must survive in any way she can in Medellin, Colombia, which was in the 1980s the seat of the infamous drug cartel.
Throughout many of the works, Cohrs also has used the book TheFold by Gilles Deleuze as a point of reference. Finding it at a studio visit, she became intrigued by the subject matter and allowed this material to permeate and play alongside the handkerchief theme of this particular body of work. As we see in the temporary drawing, the pervading theme of the show, then, confronts the sad and violent results of imposed poverty and greed, the reason the cartels exist in the first place, and a growing theme taking place in North America today.
(This article is a reprinted excerpt from the exhibition publication Charged Images: Luisa Cohrs by Andrew Jendrzejewski and Amy DeLap available at Art Space Vincennes LLC in early August.)