Paz Cohen: Avant-garde and Globalization in Art

“Space-Time”, Paz Cohen’s Exhibition

In Stanley Kubrik’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) there is a scene that is unforgettable: A prehistoric character works with a bone that suddenly floats in the air, and that, thanks to the montage, it turns into a spaceship of the future. This aspect in which intelligence and machines are merged by the fine threads of “progress” is one of the themes that appears in the work of visual artist Paz Cohen. She works with body’s fragments, a suggestion that allude to that man that loses a part of himself, called anatomy, in some cases, and soul, in others, so as to join civilizing processes that involve him in a whirlwind. Cohen’s paintings and sculptures go against that devastating movement. They have those reminiscences that lead us to Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrá’s metaphysical art, keeping in mind that a part of her palette refers to the suffocated and terrible universe of Francis Bacon. In a simplistic manner, it will be thought that Cohen belongs to the surrealism orbit – after all, Remedios Varo illustrated machines of all kinds. However, Paz’s work arises from other kinds of reflections. In the stillness of the work, time is at a standstill in which its condensations bestow fidelity to her humanist thought, which will be complimented with mobile and kinetic sculptures that display the loop that invoke repetition. Space and Time will then converse so that Paz Cohen’s work, so full of lyricism, might set up that clamor where the complaint is combined with the erotic expression of bodies, as if, in the end, in that last ray of intelligence, in the dusk of days, there would be a hint of hope. At least, that is art’s challenge nowadays: to grant us the elements that save us all from the imminence of void. Otherwise, the abyss would fill the plastic experience and it would be best to forget it. In the case of “Space-Time”, Cohen allows for reflection, and the spectator can observe evolution through the reflections of the talent of an artist in plenitude.

Andrés de Luna



Uneasiness and restlessness - that is the first impression that Paz Cohen’s work provokes. A profound existential restlessness before the spectacle traced on her work from a suffering-besieged humanity; a humanity that has not resolved the dilemma of a fair and peaceful coexistence, even with the scientific-technological prodigies with which the world is filled. Fragmented and destroyed bodies: arms, torsos, legs, wheelchairs follow each other in front of us in a chaotic parade of prosthesis and surgical appliances that put us face to face with the permanent sickly condition of man. Disease appears here as a consubstantial sign for civilization. On the matter, nothing results more obvious than the uncontrollable pandemics that next to our globalized civilization will see this century off. Cohen, through her electromechanical assembles and her objects emerged from our society, presents us a mass humanity, without a face, depersonalized by the society of consumption. She shows the present society as a conglomeration of attitudes, beliefs and traditions in constant mutation, making impossible to distinguish the originality or the individuality of machines and objects, and also the captivating human experience of transcending and turning himself into an object. John and Juanita, the armed-chairs represent this symbiotic process of metamorphosis. Speaking of chairs, I believe that nothing symbolizes our domestic, contemporary life better than a pair of objects: the coach in front of the TV. Paz’s work is a depiction of the present time in which societies like ours have not recovered yet from the dizziness caused by modernity when they should be post-modern already. What Paz Cohen wants to point out is the need for us to stop and reflect on the disadvantages of a hegemonic globalization, their risks and their mistakes. Paz Cohen invites us to find the solution. Her work is a very intense appeal to restore the natural sanity that we all had once, and that we have lost, wishing, in principle, to regain it.

Gerardo Estrada


Her paintings are of headless, fragmented human figures enclosed in boxes and circles, covered with wire mesh, attached to gears, wires and screws. Cohen’s installation of seven dress-store mannequins, whose lower bodies terminate in metal pipes and bars, is arranged as a March toward a traffic stop sign. From this, and other pieces, Cohen has created a Date’s inferno of mechanized and depersonalized urban life. Among the most poignant a complex piece made of metal sections, with rusty metal ribs, representing a female figure stretched on a black metal frame like a Christian martyr. Reaching upward from a gear and an automobile steering column and wheel are two desperate pink plastic hands. Movement, sound and light animate this construction.

Shifra Goldman


Some may think of this work to be a kind of conceptual serrealist adaptation to post modern notions. Some may marvel at its formalist skill and spiritual nature.
Cohen has indeed honed her imagery, and her craft. In fact her complete oeuvre has the self assured professionalism that belies the emotional rawness, the psychological vulnerability, the physical pain of having one’s world in the tumoil and upheaval that characterizes immigration. The perpetual clash between the mechanoid destroyers of lesh and bones, too clearly describes kife on the streets of our American cities. The deadly gore that is evidence in much of Cohen’s imagery is simply a mirror onto ourselves and the death and destruction of our violent urban experience. The music, plants and other calming elements expose the ironic and often hypocritical attitudes in American society hell-bent on denial and placing blame elsewhere.
The immigrant ethos, full of its fervent hope of a better life, and the dulling demystification of the true nature of economic, social, and/or political “paradise” as it unfolds to the outsider, is evident in the work.

These stunted and truncated life-forms woth their oftrn screwing ans scrathing extrenities, their headless torsos and extenuated, partley recognizable body parts have all the formal angst and existentialism that brongs it into the realm of art… yet this is not only art, it’s reality.

Adolfo V. Nodal
General Manager
Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department
Los Angeles, Cal



Paz Cohen’s work reveals the visual and psychic impact that the cities and the capitalist society of America exert on her. Her monumental and overwhelming works are basically a compound of machinery and fragments of bodies: half men machines, half machined women, half mannequin men, half toy mannequins. It is humanity on the way to dehumanization, on the way to automation.

On these kinetic sculptures, the “progress” and the alienation are blended resulting in an effect of robots, in whose cavities the spectator can see his or her reflection in a mirror, by having a look at them. Paz Cohen not only shows the human mechanization but she also integrates those who look at her work.

Machinery pieces, scales, rollers, old pieces of metal, henhouse nets, furniture, boxes, advertisements, dismembered mannequins, most of them headless, they all frame this terrible and unconscious dance involved in textures, colors, sounds and movements.

The artistic dynamism that comes from this works projects, on the one hand, the artist’s ability to distinguish from others, to understand others, and to represent that from the point of view of a sharp review. It is a reflection of her self-definition. On the other hand, Paz Cohen’s installations are a social message, a human screaming with the intention of stopping the terrible transformation of human beings into automats.

It is very important that nowadays, on the Tijuana border with the United States , be presented the work of a Mexican artist that knows how to look at the danger that is beyond machine, but that also knows how to represent the mechanic-human link with wisdom and maturity and with a committed great art that looks for a change.

José Luis Martínez, Director, Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA).


Cohen’s work its covered with the cultural psychosis of an artist, whose life and talent must fluctuate between two worlds (and in a woman’s case, there is a third world too). Mechano-fragmentation, her present project is a monumental effort to reflect the terrible interaction between humanity and “progress”, between the alive and the mechanical worlds. Her recent exhibition at the Mexican consulate that shows 100 kinetic sculptures and watercolor paintings is a fine frenzy - a panorama of machines and mechanized parts of the body rolling with impetus and movement. A series of extremities move in constant rhythm with gear assemblies, sound, lights and mechanized parts: the hands and the arms are propelled, not by muscular strength but by the insistent and relentless power of the machine. Cohen tells us that our peculiar social madness lies on our tricked relationship with the machine. Her watercolor paintings don’t. They have the friendly and innocuously fondness of the “southwestern art”. On her work, the human spirit cries out for freedom, lost in its own industrial creations.

The function of our bodies is haunting, running, jumping, turning and dancing; but our bodies and spirits have turned into prisoners of the “walk” “don’t walk” signs, of the omnipresent watch, of the television scheduling, and of the switchboards traffic. Paz Cohen’s art captures this involuntary fusion between humans and machines. This essential madness, her ability for giving such a splendid life derives primarily from her own involvement on Mexican culture, which is not completely based on machinery yet; on American culture, resumed into the horrible transformation of Michael Jackson’s body, the terminal product of modern science. The environmental movement has pointed out this mecano-human link into the politics sphere. Paz Cohen’s work gives an artistic dynamics to that. It is terrifying and pressing at the same time, a crazy message for a frequently crazy world. Her vision is terrifying on her paranoia and on her truth. Cohen defines her work as an effort “to make people become aware, to make us think before we loose our soul”.

William Gallego, journalist


Paz Cohen comes to this 90’s decade with a trail of the Contemporary Art of the past. It is a heritage of shapes and concepts that, on her sculptures and on her paintings is converted into a proposal. This proposal, although not that novel, is absolutely true and consistent in accordance with the time in which life goes on as industrial, electronics and digital matters have turned into the giant guillotines that have cut the human being into two pieces. Cohen’s works agglutinate in a disturbing way the industrial waste, the engines to give movement to those shapes, the colored lights that remind us the origin of all that industrial whirl in which we live, and of course the music that by musical notes and sounds creates an environment that immerse the spectator in a conscious atmosphere over the human being’s essence and all that has been lost.

Manuel Zavala Alonso, journalist, “El Universal”


Pain is one of the most difficult scenes to face. In this case, Paz Cohen appears with a vision of faceless human bodies, destroyed by the industrialized and mechanized pace of daily life. We simply forget who and what we are. There are no faces; there is not a suggested solution. She places the mirror in front of us so that we can reflect ourselves while struggling bitterly and hopeless against the so-called “wonders” of the modern age.

Scraps, forgotten gears, metallic pieces, bars, cataclysmic images and a dance of shadows, textures, materials and colors are used to portray her conception of human dilemma.
It is not an accident, it is not a coincidence, Paz has developed her vision along with her style. She has experienced the phenomenon as a person and as an artist that has been born in Mexico , and that has come to the United States. Paz feels the responsibility of screaming for a change, and she does that by exhibiting the depersonalized masses ignoring their identity, sacrificing their individuality and even fragmenting their own bodies to an endless race towards chaos, confusion and sickness. And even so, she opens a window so that we find the solution, or at least we make up a hope.

Aaron Gorienstein



That person who contributed the best kinetic-Dadaist piece of this triennial exhibition is also a woman: Paz Cohen with “some scenery”, crazy machine full of grace that would have made Marcel Duchamp himself smile at ease with the jeering noises that it emits while their parts move mischievously and with an organic intention.

Raquel Tibol, Art Critic



Paz Cohen’s painting is at the same time “daring and subtle, uncertain but yet sweetly reasserting”…

Ginger Varney


Modernization…, human unconsciousness, values lost through millenniums of evolution, “involutional” paradox that rises up from the deepest place from the underworld, from the indifference to the alive human that constitute planet Earth…Paz Cohen creates the fragmentation…

Carlos A. Jimenez Vazquez, journalist, “El Heraldo”


The artist hits with a hammer into the spectator’s sensibility by showing the vital parts of her pictorial and sculptural characters, same that any of us could be, in a mechanized way. In some cases, the intestines are gear assemblies and in other, sex turns into rigid pipes that can be open or closed when needed.

Carlos Ruvalcaba, journalist, “La Opinion”


The first impression that we get from Paz Cohen’s work is an aggressive sensuality. Their forms (fragments of bodies mixed with machinery) have a monumental character that makes them seem like they will be out of frame, situation that often happens. Cohen mix her images together with corporeal elements: wheels with teeth that go around unceasingly or textures made with wire netting. In other cases, she places a mirror in a place in which there should be a color shot and surprises us with the reflection of our astonished image integrated to the frame. Her sculptures move following an interior rhythm that does not make intuit an anguished life trapped inside a watch mechanism.

Dario Mora