Skip to content

Press Release

"The drama proceeds to metamorphoses, demon into priest into seductress into ape into queen into hog, as though we are in some Nietzschean world where behind every mask there are only more masks…What resolution could be possible?"

– Alphonso Lingis in Excesses: Eros and Culture, 1983

James Cohan Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibitions exhibition that explores the many forms and uses of masks throughout history and the influence they lend to contemporary artists. MASK will be comprised of a collection of over 40 masks assembled by Joseph G. Gerena Fine Art, dating from 700 BCE through the 20th century and representative of all continents and many cultural traditions. These masks will be shown alongside works by over 30 contemporary artists, including several specifically commissioned for the exhibition.

Masks conceal, protect and disguise. They give us the courage to speak freely, help us transcend physical limitations, add mystery and power to our rituals, amplify or hide our emotions, frighten, entertain, intimidate, humiliate, and even protect us from noxious gases and flying balls. The simplest covering can have a profound effect on both the wearer and viewer, simultaneously concealing and revealing. As Oscar Wilde summarized, "Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth."

The tradition of masks and masking offers limitless exploration; several contemporary artists have turned to the form to investigate issues of identity, power and provocation at a time when the bounds between real and assumed identities are becoming more indistinct. As political theorist Yaron Ezrahi has expressed, speaking of exhibitions world conflicts, "(Ski) masks are the uniform of the new armies of the 21st century and the new kind of violence, which no longer distinguishes between war against the stranger and war against the members of your own society. Just as this new war doesn't have a front, it doesn't have a face. It doesn't have boundaries."

Newly commissioned works include pieces by Olaf Breuning, Folkert de Jong, Yun-Fei Ji, Tony Oursler, Alison Elizabeth Taylor and William Villalongo. Other contemporary artists included are: Acconci Studio, Matthew Barney, Miriam Berkley, Jonathan Borofsky, Ulla von Brandenburg, Matthew Buckingham/Joachim Koester, Nick Cave, Willie Cole, Dick Evans, Phyllis Galembo, Caron Geary, Hans Haacke, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jürgen Klauke, N'dilo Mutima, IngridMwangiRobertHutter, Bill Owens, RAMMELLZEE, Markus Schinwald, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Jeff Sonhouse, Reena Spaulilngs, Vibeke Tandberg, Rosemarie Trockel, Richard Tuttle and Gillian Wearing.

We are grateful to Joseph Gerena, whose wide-ranging collection so beautifully traces the historical root system of masks and masking. This exhibition was curated by Elyse Goldberg and Ginger Cofield and comes accompanied by a brochure with essays by Eleanor Heartney and Joseph Gerena.

For further information please contact Jane Cohan at or 212-714-9500.

Back To Top