Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wolf Kahn by Justin Spring

Glimpse of a House by the Beach, 1965

I recently went out to my parent's house and as I was leaving my mom pushed this book into my hands. She got it at a talk of his in 1996 and it is signed which is pretty cool. I really like Wolf Kahn's work but I guess because I grew up with the book on our coffee table I never thought about reinvestigating it. That's the unfortunate thing about growing up with a mom with great taste in art...takes me longer to admit I agree with her.
Anyway, I read the first two pages of the book and am totally engrossed. The first essay is by Justin Spring and basically outlines Kahn's development. The second is by Louis Finkelstein and gets more into formal aspects of the work. I really like seeing the work he made when he was around my age just getting out of school. Its like seeing someone's baby pictures. You can see how they grew into the person they are now but when you see a baby you have no idea what they will look like as an adult. The work has the same threads of questions and interests but it manifests itself in really varied ways until he has been working consistently for about 10 years.

Portrait of Frank O'Hara, 1953-54

That's when the nuances get really interesting and he seems to pull away from being influenced by other artists and seems on a path all his own. Finkelstein notes the painting at the top of this post as a really important development. Kahn is able to establish space with color. The house in the distance only seems distant due to the diagonal of purply gray yet it is completely flat. How poetic. The book has been helpful in pointing directly to things like that. I know that particular painting is strong and different from previous works but still have a hard time verbalizing how it has been constructed to do that. It seems like so much of my education has been looking and absorbing that it feels really good to see words that confirm the why. So anyway, note to self, read the text in your books and listen to your mom.

Near the Potomac, Near the Canal 1987


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