The first ever solo exhibition of master ceramicist, Herb Cohen, is currently on view at the Mint Museum Randolph (a Knight Arts grantee) through January 6, 2013. The exhibition explores Cohen’s seven-decade-long career, displaying pieces from his first manipulations of clay at the Henry Street Settlement in the 1940s to his more current sculptural explorations. “Sophisticated Surfaces: the Pottery of Herb Cohen” is part of the Mint’s 75th anniversary celebration and is presented in conjunction with “A Thriving Tradition: 75 Years of Collecting North Carolina Pottery.”
As a potter, Cohen is renowned for his ability to manipulate surface and form, blending each into a harmonious accord. Cohen’s surfaces are often highly intricate and abstracted, suggesting a pre-calculated design, but he actually works freehand to develop a pattern based on the shape and function of the object. These patterns are created with glazes or slips using complicated techniques like mishima and sgraffito. Consequently, each piece is highly individualized even when the function is the same.
“Sophisticated Surfaces” displays 60 of Cohen’s works with a variety of forms from functional to sculptural. At the entrance two of Cohen’s recent sculptural pieces flank the title label. “Sarabande” and “Pavane” interpret 16th- and 17th-century dances, conveying the movement and liveliness in their shapes, glazes and textures.
Cohen was born and raised in New York City and attended the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, earning his BFA and MFA. He then worked for Hyalyn Porcelain Company in Hickory, North Carolina. Moving to Charlotte in 1958, Cohen became active with the Mint Museum as a volunteer and later the Exhibitions Director. He was instrumental in initiating the Museum’s contemporary collection of craft and ceramics. “Sophisticated Surfaces” is thus not just an exhibition of exquisite ceramics, but a testament to Cohen’s contributions to North Carolina Pottery and the Mint Museum.
Mint Museum Randolph: 2730 Randolph Rd., Charlotte; 704-337-2000; Open Tues., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Wed.–Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Sun., 1–5 p.m. Admission: adults $10; students/seniors $8; children 5-17, $5.