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October 2011

North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, Offers Works by Alan Cohen

North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Earth with Meaning, featuring photographs by Alan Cohen, on view at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design through Dec. 17, 2011.

After completing a degree in nuclear engineering at NC State and studying thermodynamics at Northwestern, Cohen pursued a career in photography instead.

As a graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design, Cohen studied with some of the masters of photography. He was awarded a M.Sc. Photography degree in 1972.

“At the Institute of Design, I learned the medium’s multiple languages under the tutelage of Aaron Siskind, Arthur Siegel, Garry Winogrand, Joe Jachna, Ken Josephson and Charles Swedlund. Since that time, the possibilities of what a photograph can address and what it can mean have profoundly changed,” said Cohen. “For the last two decades my pictures have addressed the shared issues reflective of cold war history, cultural meanings, and personal belief.”

“Since 1991, I have traveled to places anchored to events - some repulsive and some illuminating - in 55 countries and 43 US states that symbolize the sinuous life of world history.&rdquo

Concentrating on places where the fragmentary physical remnants of historical and natural events are still visible - like vestiges of the Berlin Wall, remains of Holocaust sites, boundary lines, meteor impact craters, ruins of fortresses, abandoned colonial buildings - Cohen has documented “the earth of our past as a record of memory, not as an act of witness.” Earth with Meaning presents a major retrospective of Cohen’s starkly moving work, filling both of the Gregg’s main galleries with carefully composed images revealing the scars of history.

Cohen offers the following statement about his photography, “I have come to understand that history, in a contemporary image, can be sited. Events can - and do - become geography. My photographs are a visual meditation on the trauma that scars global sites of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first-centuries. The images record the distance between what we remember about charged places and what we can still observe in them today. The photographs offer a space for reflection on the complex gravity and legacy of the very ground in which history is rooted.”

Married to Susan Walsh, Cohen lives in Chicago, IL, and is an Adjunct Full Professor in the Art History, Theory, Criticism Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a member of the visiting faculty at Columbia College Chicago’s Department Of Photography.

This project was supported by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. It was also made possible through the generous contributions of Susan Annable, Bruce Brittain, Robert Burger, Sharon Cohen, Grace Drease, Annie and Lewis Kostiner, Bruce Mackh, Sandro Miller, Ann Rothschild, David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, Jonathan Walsh, Susan Walsh and Vanessa Wilcox.

On Nov. 17, 2011, at 6pm, Alan Cohen returns to the Gregg to talk about his starkly beautiful black and white photographs in Earth with Meaning.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 919/515-3503 or visit (


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