Elaine Lustig Cohen

Organized by Cole Akers

The Glass House presents the first survey to explore the relationship between the early paintings and pioneering design projects of Elaine Lustig Cohen. Based in New York, Lustig Cohen has been highly regarded as a graphic designer, artist, and rare book dealer throughout her career, which spans over fifty years. On view in the Painting Gallery, the exhibition includes a selection of her paintings from the 1960s and 1970s as well as examples of her multi-year collaboration with architect Philip Johnson, among other projects.

In 1955, Lustig Cohen began a graphic design practice that integrated the aesthetics of European modernism within a distinctly American visual idiom for her diverse clientele of publishers, corporations, cultural institutions, and architects. Her first client was Johnson, who commissioned her to work on the lettering and signage for the Seagram Building. The two forged an important bond that resulted in a variety of projects for the Glass House, Yale University, Lincoln Center, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, and the Sheldon Museum of Art, among others, as well as commissions from Johnson’s clients, including John de Menil and the Schlumberger oil company.

As a painter, Lustig Cohen developed a hard-edged style in the 1960s and 1970s that engaged  the physicality of the canvas’ flat surface. Employing a simplified formal language that includes solid colors and abstract geometric shapes, her paintings allude to her design work as well as the contemporaneous practices of other artists who strove to dissolve the barriers between painting and objecthood.

Elaine Lustig Cohen (b. 1927, Jersey City, New Jersey) studied art at the University of Southern California. Her first solo exhibitions in New York were held at John Bernard Meyers Gallery (1970, 1972, 1973), Galerie Denise René (1975), and Mary Boone Gallery (1979), where she was the first woman to have a solo exhibition. Since then, her work has been presented at Exit Art (1985), Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (1995), Julie Saul Gallery (2005), the Rochester Institute of Technology (2014), and P! (2014), among other venues. As a graphic designer, her clients have included the Jewish Museum, New Directions, the Whitney Museum, and architects Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier, and Philip Johnson. In 1973, she co-founded the influential bookstore Ex Libris, which specialized in 20th century avant-garde books, periodicals, ephemera, and posters. Work by Lustig Cohen is held in numerous public and private collections, and she is the recipient of the 2011 AIGA Medal for her life’s work in design.

Special thanks to Prem Krishnamurthy and P!, New York.