Who is afraid of ornamentation? And of abstraction?

Professor and director between 1988 and 2000 of the famous London art school, Slade School of Fine Arts, Bernard Cohen was simply not interested in Pop, in the period of English and American classic Pop Art, or as he likes to say, of Popular Art, too conformist and directed. For Cohen, that ‘popular art’ had interrupted a much more creative artistic flow which was happening in abstract painting at the end of the 1950s. Cohen criticised the romantic, academic and commercial vision of the Pop artists, who he considered to be subjugated to the interests and guidance of the media.

Bernard Cohen (1933). 'White Plant', 1965. Acrylic paint on canvas. 274 x 213 cm. Museu Coleção Berardo, inv. UID 102-119 © Bernard Cohen, Viscopy 2018
120 Bernard Cohen (1933). 'Mask', 1975-76. Acrylic paint on canvas. 91.4 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, Londron, no. AC 1592 ©Bernard Cohen, Viscopy 2018
151 Bernard Cohen (1933). Untitled, 1973. Watercolour on paper. 41.3 x 42.5 cm. Courtesy British Council Collection, no. P1746 ©Bernard Cohen, Viscopy 2018

Exhibited (albeit briefly) at the Venice Biennale in 1966, in White PlantBernard Cohen gives free reign to his creative imagination to produce a painting of a huge ornament floating over a vast field of broad and patiently textured pointillism. Time has a way of rectifying past injustices and this painting, which was withdrawn from exhibition in Venice owing to its visual incompatibility with Anthony Caro’s large floor sculptures, has a place of honour in this exhibition and in the Berardo Collection in Lisbon to which it belongs.

View of the exhibition


Updated on 30 july 2018

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