In the late 1980’s Jeff Cowen was assistant to Larry Clark. At that time Cowen practiced street photography in the South Bronx, the Meatpacking District and other fringe districts of New York. His later intense study of painting and drawing led not only to the dislocation of his work from the street into his studio, but also had a great impact on his comprehension of photography and its technical means.
The analogue image taken by the camera is not the final product, but marks the starting point of the artistic reflection of the motif. The processual way of making an image predominantly takes place in the darkroom. Cowen’s intervention in the developing process involves special chemical and painting techniques he has been experimenting with for 30 years. The works resulting from these operations shift on the one side between photography, painting, collage and sculpture and on the other between destruction and creation.
In some cases Jeff Cowen totally omits the photography taken by the camera and edits the surface of the negative directly with chemicals, and a variety of instruments, which lead to an abstract painterly image. Hence, the lines between photography and painting melt into one entity. Even in cases when we recognize the classical motifs of art history in particular works such as portrait, nude, landscape, still life or abstraction, the singular genres and individual subjects are rendered to a profound essence.
Works by Jeff Cowen often seem to exist outside the time-space continuum. There is no event which can be related to a certain time period. Instead, the works unfold an auratic impression, which can be only articulated solely by and within the image itself. Or in the way Jeff Cowen puts it: “I use photography as a language in order to communicate something unspeakable.”
Jeff Cowen was born in New York in 1966, he now lives and works in Berlin. Upcoming solo exhibitions: Sculpture Photographs, Michael Werner Kunsthandel, Cologne (June 2016), Ludwig Museum, Koblenz (October 2016), Huis Marseille, Museum voor Fotografie, Amsterdam (2017).