Cohen single-mindedly focused on exploring the potential offered by simple materials such as pencil, charcoal, ink and watercolors to create extensive series in which he let his imagination run wild. The result was made up of hundreds of drawings with repeated thematic obsessions that flowed from his hand unpremeditatedly, floating up unconsciously as suggested by lines or blemishes and shaped by the demands of composition imposed by his esthetic vision. As his work matured, he gradually abandoned academic drawing to give rise to the eloquent figurative deformations that spring from a sharp, ironic and keen eye in its obsessive need to transform and communicate reality creatively, filling it with new, rich and suggestive shades of meaning.
Cohen's constant search made him uncommonly versatile. He went from one series to another, exhausting their possibilities and passing through transitions where hesitation finally gave way to decision. His influences were explicit: his admiration for Francis Bacon, Grosz, Góngora, Schiele and Orozco, to name but a few, inspired him to explore the trails they had blazed until such references were finally overtaken by his highly personal seal.
During the late eighties, his meticulous, motley style gave way to an more informal approach characterized by strong, simplified strokes that allowed his skill to be manifested in a new, freer vein. A few stains, and bold, self-assured lines stretch fluently and masterfully across the paper, synthetically expressing a formal structure and making a striking impression because of the intensity gained through his surprising economy. Cohen began making increasing use of pastel, thus allowing color to enter his world, providing a new element that was both enriching and challenging. After many years as a draftsman who felt insecure on tackling the challenges imposed by color, pastel little by little gave Eduardo Cohen added room for creation, where spontaneous strokes, despite their ambiguity, reflect and preserve his characteristic figurative nucleus and add a daring handling of color that was used analogously, with the same degree of freedom and imaginative exploitation of accidents.
During that time Cohen was commissioned to paint a mural for a synagogue, followed by two series of stained-glass windows for Jewish school libraries. In addition to inspiring him to conduct painstaking research on the subjects chosen -- Jewish festive rites, biblical prophets and the creation of the world through an extremely free interpretation of the Bible -- these works made him discover the sensuality of working on a larger scale; through the use of color he developed a playful taste for creating textures and ranges, the wealth of which added to the drawing skills that were at the foundation of his work. The implicit constraints of working with previously defined themes did not act as a limitation but rather as a fixed axis that nevertheless forced him to pursue a new form of creativity. Moreover, the subjects chosen, focusing on central aspects of Jewish culture, were close to his heart, forming part of his personal experiences and charged with a mixture of emotion and lucid reflection that served to filter and reinterpret an ancestral symbolic cosmos, recaptured and updated by his particular vision.
Once the doors to the use of color had been opened, Eduardo Cohen spent the last five years of his life creating oil paintings on paper. Smudges and accidents were the starting point of compositions in which human figures, animals and objects were displayed with a sense of drama, humor or compassion and where his use of color and texture, light and shade took on a poetic content that was not without ambiguity, filled simultaneously with pain and exaltation, and reflecting Eduardo Cohen's changing states of mind when he was racked by illness.
Eduardo Cohen devoted a good part of his life to teaching how to draw the human figure and the theory of art. A tireless and passionate reader on a wide range of subjects, his self-taught background allowed him to take advantage of an interdisciplinary approach, to which he resorted in order to reach out to and exercise a determining influence on his pupils as part of the process of teaching. His daily confrontation with his work and the challenge of teaching as a means of spurring reflection led to the publication, at the end of 1992 by the Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), of his book Towards an existential art. Reflections of an expressionist painter. The book condenses his grasp of theory and analysis, together with his commitment to the never-ending search for renewed esthetic codes and therefore the rejection of an acquiescent attitude to repetition, the flattery of followers and the commercialization of his work.
When he died, on 15 June 1995, he had nearly three thousand drawings in his studio, most of which had never been exhibited. After a lengthy process of selection, in June 1997 a major retrospective of his work was presented at the Palacio de Minería under the auspices of the UNAM's Dirección de Artes Plásticas, and subsequently toured different museums in the Mexican provinces. A book based on the exhibition, Eduardo Cohen 1939-1995. Los propósitos de la mirada, was edited by the UNAM with the support of the recently founded Fundación Cultural Eduardo Cohen. It contains the most representative samples of Cohen's work, covering almost 200 pages and is accompanied by a text by Andrés de Luna, the curator of the show, who considers Cohen "...one of the major artists of this century of Mexican art and one of the greatest sketchers of the continent that Borges so maligned."