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Image & Text - Brian D. Cohen

on view through August 5, 2007


It isn't often that an artist has two-shows-in-one at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, but that is exactly what Brian D. Cohen has achieved in his exhibit this season, on view through August 5, 2007. The Bird Book, showing in the Activity Gallery, is one half of Image & Text - Brian D. Cohen. Pierrot Lunaire, in the Museum's "History Room" off of the main gallery, presents another of Cohen's limited edition artist's book_of an entirely different look and sentiment. The Bird Book is an alphabet book, appealing to bird-lovers and the young-at-heart of all ages. Pierrot Lunaire is Cohen's visual interpretation of the cycle of twenty-one poems by the Belgian Symbolist poet Albert Giraud that was later composed into an atonal song cycle by Arnold Schoenberg. The illustrations for both of these books are etchings made and printed by Cohen at his Bridge Press in Westminster Station.

For The Bird Book, each representation of a bird, printed in black ink, was hand-colored with watercolors. The artist enlisted his wife, Holiday Eames, to create the rhyming couplets for each of the pages. In two lines, each bird or its attributes are cleverly described. Cohen relies on the expertise of artisans from near and far to help him complete his limited edition artist's books. Ed Rayher of Swamp Press in Northfield, MA cast the letters for The Bird Book. These metal letters were then set and printed at Golgonooza Letter Foundry in Ashuelot, NH by Dan Carr and Julia Ferrari. The bird's eye maple cover was made by cabinetmaker Richard Holmquist of White River Junction, and the title was carved into the cover by Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press in Berkeley, CA. The final step in completion of The Bird Book was the binding, crafted by Linda Lembke at Green River Bindery in Guilford. Partial funding for The Bird Book, finished in 2004, came from the Vermont Arts Council.

The Bird Book portion of the exhibit is accompanied by activities and books that relate to the alphabet as a source of inspiration. Illustrators, graphic artists and painters have used this elementary theme to create a wide variety of imaginative and award-winning books for all ages. Visitors to BMAC can return multiple times over the summer to create their own pages for an alphabet book and to enjoy the reading materials.

Upon entering the room where Pierrot Lunaire is exhibited, one sees that each page is hung at a different level. Immediately to the left of the entrance, the brushed aluminum box cover introduces the book. A design of overlapping circles has been gently sanded onto the surface of the box, and a subtle plaque presents the title. Then the pages begin to the right of the cover, their placement echoing visually the qualities of Schoenberg's atonal composition for the poem cycle. The etchings on each of the pages were printed from one metal plate, but one appears to be very dark and the other much lighter, due to the two different printing methods Cohen employed. Each poem has been set in a different typeface and appears in French, German and English. Pierrot Lunaire, designed by Brian D. Cohen and Dan Carr, was completed in 2007. Partial support for the project came from the Vermont Community Foundation.

(above: Brian D. Cohen, The Bird Book,  2004, The Letter W, 15 x 11-14 inches, Hand-colored relief etchings by Brian D. Cohen, printed on Somerset Book Wove paper. Rhyming couplet by Holiday Eames) 

(above: Brian D. Cohen Pierrot Lunaire,  2007, Serenade, 15 x 22 inches, Intaglio and relief etchings by Brian D. Cohen, printed on Magnani Pescia paper)

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