'Atlas of Impermanence' by Nancy Cohen '84 at Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
BY Nicole Saldarriaga, May 27, 2021
Cohen's artwork for the exhibition comes from her ongoing series, "The Work of Time," and consists of drawings so large that they appear to be tapestries. Instead, the works are made of paper pulp and handmade paper, engaging ideas of time, impermanence, and fragility. Atlas of Impermanence also features small glass sculptures which have been suspended in the gallery's windows.
"Compelled by the fragility and strength of the natural world," says the Visual Arts Center, "Cohen has chosen materials that embody these qualities, both physically and metaphorically. She has worked with glass and handmade paper for more than 25 years, drawn to these materials and processes for their transformative qualities, their potential for translucency, and their ability to integrate structure and surface simultaneously."
For the monumental drawings in Atlas, Cohen drew upon memories of New Jersey landscapes as well as abstract ideas about the fragility of humanity—in particular our survival in the face of the current environmental crisis. According to Cohen, this preoccupation only became more fraught during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the small glass sculptures in her exhibition, with their wing-like forms, convey a sense of flight, escape, and transcendence in the face of the large, consuming drawings.
"It is my goal," said Cohen, "that in this work, as in our lives, elements hang in the balance, each one necessary, vulnerable, beautiful, and above all interdependent."
Atlas of Impermanence will be available for viewing through June 13, 2021.
Nancy Cohen is widely known for her experimental works with hand-made paper and large-scale sculptural installations, many of which also include handmade glass, cement, reformed found objects, metal and rubber. Cohen has been awarded a Pollack Krasner Grant, residencies at The Millay Colony and Yaddo, and multiple Fellowships in Sculpture and Works on Paper from the NJ State Council on the Arts. Cohen’s work is in the permanent collections of the NJ State Museum, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum, Montclair Art Museum, & Yale University Art Museum among others. Recent exhibits include a solo show at the Hunterdon Art Museum, NJ; a permanent installation at the Health Sciences Library, Howard University, Washington DC and inclusion in Shattered: Contemporary Sculpture in Glass at Frederik Meijer Sculpture Garden, Grand Rapids, MI in 2013. Cohen was born in Queens, NY and lives in Jersey City, NJ.