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(Posted 5-28-03)
Contact: Patti Gross, 336-334-5770

Weatherspoon Art Museum Presents Photography
Eexhibition by Folk Legend John Cohen

Special Events Include an Evening with the Artist, Local Music, Films and Tours
John Cohen Photograph of Jack Kerouac

GREENSBORO, NC – There is No Eye: Photographs by John Cohen – the first retrospective exhibition by the artist and musician who inspired the Grateful Dead song "Uncle John's Band" – will be on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum this summer from June 15 through August 17. Among Cohen’s subjects were the major figures of New York City's avant-garde visual and musical arts culture during the 1950s and 1960s, including writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; musicians Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, and Doc Watson; and artists Red Grooms and Josef Albers. The title of this nationally traveling exhibition is derived from the liner notes to Bob Dylan’s 1965 album, Highway 61 Revisited.

John Cohen became interested in photography after studying at Yale University with painters Josef Albers and Herbert Matter. He then moved to New York where he mixed with a burgeoning art world, including many of the Abstract Expressionists and Beatnik poets. During that period, Cohen photographed stills for the Beat Generation's defining film, “Pull My Daisy.”

Later, his work focused on the roots revival music scene. He made his first photographic series while assisting Matter on a film about the roots of jazz in Black gospel music. He photographed musicians he knew through his band, the New Lost City Ramblers, and was instrumental in documenting and reviving traditional music. The band attempted to recapture the authentic string band sound of the 1920s and 1930s, which so influenced Dylan and others. It was Cohen who coined the phrase, “high lonesome sound,” in reference to this genre; his film of the same name is legendary.

Cohen’s immersion into the Beat culture as an artist and musician was central to his photography. Through the camera lens, he captured the energy and insight of that groundbreaking time and produced some of its most recognizable images. His artistic and cultural interests also led him to Peru and the American South, settings from which he drew more photographic subject matter.  "I've been called a musician, folklorist, visual anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, filmmaker, photographer, ethnographer, visual artist, and teacher," said Cohen in a 2002 interview. "I see it all as one work, emanating from one central point in myself." (Boston Sunday Globe, February 3, 2002)

There is No Eye consists of approximately 130 black and white images organized into eight thematic sections. The accompanying wall texts were written by Cohen and chronicle the projects and passions of his life. A 200-page artist monograph has been published by powerHouse Books, and includes an essay by art critic Greil Marcus and 127 duotone and 39 full color photographs. In addition, Smithsonian Folkways has released a companion CD, There Is No Eye: Music for Photographs, with music by Cohen and his photographic subjects (23 songs, many unreleased). Both the catalogue and the music CD will be on sale in the Weatherspoon Museum Shop throughout the exhibition. There is No Eye: Photographs by John Cohen is organized and circulated by the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, in cooperation with John P. Jacob, independent curator.

Special programming for the Weatherspoon exhibition includes “An Evening with John Cohen,” a slide lecture and musical performance by the artist at 7 p.m., Friday, June 20. Admission is $5 for Weatherspoon members and $8 for non-members. For information and reservations, call 334-5770.

Musical performances, films, and gallery tours are also planned during the exhibition. On Thursday, June 26 and Thursday, July 24, the Weatherspoon will host live music performed by local artists as well as tours of the exhibition. Music begins at 5:30 p.m. and tours will continue until 7:30 p.m.  Films will be shown on two evenings in July. On Thursday, July 10 at 7 p.m.: “Pull My Daisy,” (1959; 45 min.) by Swiss director and photographer Robert Frank and featuring ten of his friends, the principal characters of the “Beat Generation” will be screened. Jack Kerouac lent his voice, narrating the film with his jazzy diction.

On Thursday, July 31, at 7 p.m., the Weatherspoon presents two of John Cohen’s legendary films: “High Lonesome Sound,” (1962, 30 min.) and “The End of an Old Song,” (1970, 30 min.) Filmed in the mountains around Asheville, North Carolina, “The End of an Old Song” presents a moving portrait of Dillard Chandler, one of the last unaccompanied ballad singers. Dillard had little money, no family, and few friends, but he found strength from his music. His proud musical heritage shines throughout the film. “High Lonesome Sound” tells the story of Roscoe Holcomb, an extraordinary singer-guitarist whom Eric Clapton once called "his favorite country musician." Images of Roscoe are combined with scenes of coal miners, passionate church services, a riverside baptism, and other visions of life in eastern Kentucky.

Weatherspoon Art Museum Information

Current Exhibitions, Summer 2003:

Through August 3:

Degrees of Abstraction: Selections from the Permanent Collection
A Room of Their Own: Interiors from the Permanent Collection

Henri Matisse: Prints and Bronzes from the Cone Collection (Through Sept. 28)

Hours:   Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1 - 5 p.m.

Admission:  Visitor parking and admission to the museum are free. Please note: on weekdays, it is necessary to display a visitor's pass to park in the museum's designated spaces.  Please request a pass from the attendant at the first floor reception desk. The museum is wheelchair accessible.

For further information about upcoming exhibitions and artists, please contact Patti Gross at 336-334-5770 or email


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