Israeli-born Shlomo Cohen studied graphic design at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Displayed his works... in ten solo exhibitions in Israel and overseas, and participated in a large number of group exhibitions. Shlomo was awarded The United Nations/Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Award and the Dosh Prize from the Tel-Aviv Municipality. Cohen is also a Dive Master and photographs, maps and writes about diving sites worldwide.
In addition to his work as an illustrator and graphic designer, Cohen began drawing cartoons and portraits. Between 1997-2007, his work appeared in such prominent Israeli newspapers and publications as: Haolam Hazeh, Monitin, Ksafim, Hadashot, Maariv, Globes, Yedioth Ahronot and Yedioth Tikshoret. Since 2007, when the newspaper Israel Hayom first began publication, Cohen has been drawing its daily political cartoon. An English version of the cartoon is distributed to audiences worldwide.
With the introduction of the digital pen, Cohen was among the pioneers in using this medium that allows full expression of hand illustrations. Today, he regularly lectures on this technique in private workshops and in the past year, he has begun drawing a series of satirical portraits using another new technique involving 3D sculpting.
In addition to his regular work as a cartoonist, Cohen writes, illustrates, produces and publishes cartoon books, children's books, illustrated calendars, posters and a series of t-shirts that display his cartoons.
Let's Face It, Keter, 1988, [Keter]
Sex A to Z, Seapen, 1989
The Bible A to Z, Seapen, 1989
An Irritable Country (with Didi Manussi), Tefer, 2004
Overview, Arigent, 2008.
Israel Up Today, Israel Today, 2009
The Sea I Love, Seapen, 1975
The Columbus Log, Kingston Publishers, 1992
Red Sea Diver's Guide Vol.1, Seapen, 1975
Bahamas Diver's Guide, Seapen, 1976
Cayman Islands Diver's Guide, Seapen, 1990 Florida Keys Diver's Guide, Seapen, 1992
Red Sea Diver's Guide Vol.2, Seapen, 1995
Palau Islands, Seapen, 2000
For 5000 years, portraits have been drawn, sketched and sculpted. Until the invention of photography 200 years ago, portraiture was the only way to document and preserve the appearance of a certain individual. Rare was the artist who would create non-commissioned portraits for a client unless he painted his family. Portraits were generally commissioned by secular and religious rulers, and later by wealthy merchants to display their power, importance, beauty, wealth, profession, education, moral rectitude and other attributes.
With the development of political cartoons in 18th century England, the satirical, critical and occasionally offensive portrait evolved. Rulers tried to suppress the depicted criticism by purchasing the prints for their art collection. Shlomo Cohen began drawing satirical portraits in the 1970s for major Israeli newspapers and journals, portraying politicians, generals, rabbis, leading business figures and media persona. He attempted to penetrate beyond the "appearance donned by said persona that day" according to James McNeill Whistler. In a 'concise' portrait, he captures the satirical aspect by distorting or exaggerating the facial contours. In a 'complex' portrait, he adds articles of clothing and accessories to the drawn figure to hint about recent actions or statements of the drawn figure.
At the beginning of his career as portraitist, Shlomo Cohen adopted a range of classic techniques – pencil, pen and markers, watercolors and acrylic. He later switched to airbrush, and since the 1990s, he draws with a digital pen on a board – one of the first in Israel to do so. For the past year, Shlomo has been involved in 3D portraits (using software) – proving to be a pioneer who is well ahead of his peers in this area as well.
The exhibition displays a selection of political leaders over two axes: history of government in Israel, on the one hand, and the evolution of Shlomo Cohen's portraiture on the other. The latter did not develop linearly and Cohen occasionally uses various techniques, sometimes returning to the classic ones.
The choice of leaders whose portraits are included in the exhibition was completely at the artist's discretion – there were no political, gender, ethnic or racial balance guidelines. The museum grants the artist complete freedom – a rarity these days – to choose the persona at their own discretion or as he frequently says: "according to that something that speaks to me".
Shlomo Cohen's daily cartoons are seen by very large audiences but he does not aim at the lowest common denominator. The cartoon can generally be grasped on two levels. The first level can be apprehend following a quick initial observation. A more in-depth analysis requires lengthier observation. Cohen employs a high level Hebrew with biblical references. The visual symbols are occasionally borrowed from foreign cultures and are familiar only to Israelis who resided outside of Israel or who read the foreign press.
Shlomo Cohen's parallel career alongside his art involves the ocean. He dives, researches diving sites and sunken ships as well as maps, photographs, illustrates, writes and produces books on oceanic themes. The result is that the majority of metaphors that find their way into his cartoons are related to the ocean, and as such, may not necessarily be clear to landlubbers.
The satirical portrait artist does not have the means that are available to the cartoonist. There are no uniform characters, no dialogue between them and no environment in which the drawn Figure is found. The artist is faced with four cumulative challenges: the first – to design a Figure that can be immediately identified; the second – to expose and feature character attributes that the artist notices; the third – to display the portrait in a contemporary – political, social or cultural – context; and the fourth – to cause us to laugh or, at least, to smile.
Yoram E. Shamir, Exhibition Curator
The Nation's Leaders Hung in the Library, Hasifriya, Tel Aviv 1992
Face to Face, Portraits in Pencil and Pen, Holon Theater 1995
Cartoons and Drawings of Diving, Antibes, France 1995
An Irritable Country, Cinematek Tel-Aviv, Tel-Aviv 2004
Mass Culture Heroes, Yad Lebanim Municipal Gallery, Raanana 2005
Overview, Cinematek Tel-Aviv, Tel-Aviv 2008
My Woman of the Decade, Beit Yad Lebanim, Ramat Hasharon 2010
Underwater Cartoon Exhibition, Eilat 2011
Political Cartoons, Eshkol Center, Tiberias 2012
Five Years 1356 Cartoons, Hutzot Hayotzer Festival, Jerusalem 2012
Shpitz 93, The Jerusalem Artists House, Jerusalem 1993
'Israelidades, Museo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro', Lisbon, Portugal 1994
Premio Satira Political, Forte Dei Marmi, Italy, 1994
Israel on line, Roaming Exhibition in Europe 1994
The Year that Was, Holon Theater, Israeli Cartoon Museum, Holon 2004-10
The Jerusalem Cartoon Conference, Mishkenot Shaananim, Jerusalem 2005
The Year that Was, Israel Center, San Francisco, 2006
"The "Old Man": David Ben-Gurion and His Legacy in the Mirror of Israeli Art 2010" Avraham Baron Art Gallery, University of the Negev, Beer Sheba 2010
"Not Just a Symbol" the Israeli Cartoon Museum, Holon 2011
Still Optimistic – Artists Draw Dudu Geva, Vitrina Gallery, Holon Institute of Technology, Holon 2015
Crossed the Rubicon – Ruvi Rivlin, Sapir College, Hof Ashkelon 2015
After Charlie Hebdo, the French Institute, Tel-Aviv 2016
Woman of Valor, Negev Museum of Art, Beer Sheba 2016