Alex Bradley Cohen (b. 1989, United States) lives and works in Chicago, IL. Cohen is an alumnus of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He is recipient of the 2014 James Nelson Raymond Fellowship. Recent exhibitions include The Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA and The Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL. His work was featured on the cover of New American Paintings (issue 113, 2014).
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am an artist. I make things. I make and create things through self-expression. My art comes from a personal and self-reflective place. Art for me is about living, existing, experiencing things, and digesting them through creative pathways.
My creative life involves painting, drawing, skating with my friends, making clay sculptures, creating installations, making videos with friends, and writing poetry. I’m influenced by personal experiences, intimate situations, things on the street, things that I see, and things that I hear. I’m a very emotional person and I’m easily affected by the things that I’m around. So I try and spend a lot of time calm and peaceful. My youth was a little bit more wild. But now I’m good. Really good.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I had a two person show at Carrie Secrist with Kelly Lloyd up through July 25th. It was like a mash-up of two shows. I didn’t know Kelly previous to doing the show. But she’s really great. The paintings in that show are more on the emotionally low side. It wasn’t too intentional but it’s what came from working in a really small studio with no windows. haha. All the paintings came from last winter.
I also have two upcoming shows that I’m really excited about. One here in Chicago in September at Roots and Culture. It’s a two person show with Steve Ruiz. I still haven’t met him. That show is going to be more self-reflective from a more fearful and neurotic state. It’s kind of like a statement on the current political and social climate, but it’s still pretty personal and narrative. The other upcoming show that I have is in San Francisco at The Luggage Gallery this fall. They will be two entirely different shows showcasing two different bodies of work. The show at Roots and Culture is going to be a very therapeutic show. My San Francisco show is not as much as a psychological or emotional release. It’s pretty traditional in a sense, there are new portraits of friends on un-stretched canvas. They just drape on the wall. To me they are really fresh and light. I’m also excited about them because they are environmentally friendly, which is so rad. I also plan on learning how to play the piano this winter. I want to make a musical poetry album. I have ten poems from the past 6 years that I’m really excited about. I also envision them turning into videos.
What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? Administrative influence and the overwhelming energy of the internet. The internet is overwhelming and distracting. There are so many images and links to click on. It’s hard to just focus on one thing. At least it’s really hard for me. Cause there’s always another link to another article or image. It’s hard to digest it all.
How did your interest in art begin? I think I’ve always been interested in art since I was a child. I never wanted to be an artist. It was never a dream, thought, or motivation. But the creativity always existed. My interest as a child came from my mother and because in 4th grade I was sent to a therapeutic day school for kids with emotional and behavior disorders. It was a very nurturing, intimate, and individualistic environment. It was a rough time, and school, and they always encouraged creativity as a way of self-expression. Sometimes it’s really hard to digest the world, but through images and writing I can deal with very complex issues that I can’t always talk about. Art helps me open up to the world. I’m a very introverted person when I don’t feel comfortable. Comfort is very important for me to be creative. My art isn’t about chance or risk. It’s about comfort and living, and dealing with experiences from the everyday.
If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? I would say, ” hah, I don’t know I make portraits of my friends, and abstract things.” That’s it.
What artists are you interested in right now? I’m interested in narrative artists, personal artists, artists that give away a piece of themselves and their place in the world through their art. Alberto Aguilar, Aaron Fowler, Lauren Halsey, Robert Hodge, and Yoshie Sakai. That’s a very small list of some really great friends.
What’s your favorite thing about your city? That I can exist in it. My whole life is here. I understand it enough to feel comfortable but not have it be boring. There’s not a totally hype city. It’s a really accepting city. A place to be yourself and drift, and try out new things.
What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? I saw a Ralph Fasanella painting show at the Folk Art Museum in New York that really stuck out to me. It felt extremely honest like I could touch him through the paintings. That’s important to me as an artist. To be touched.
What do you do when you’re not working on art? Probably thinking about art. hah. I’m an extremely compulsive person and self-obsessed. It’s not cool. I’m working on it. Trying to find balance so I’m not so self-obsessed. I do work a lot too. I work at all the stadiums in Chicago. I sell souvenirs. I’ve been doing that since I was 17, I’m 25. So for a very long time. I’ve also been reading a lot. I like riding my bike and skateboarding too. Peaceful things.
If you hadn’t become an artist what do you think you’d be doing? I honestly have no idea. Before going to community college and meeting Alberto Aguilar I had no focus at all. So I honestly have no idea. It would probably be very self-destructive and dark.