09 April, 2008
The famous American, Wolf Kahn, is an octogenarian who lives in Vermont, and has been involved in the New York art scene for over fifty years. His family fled Germany in 1939 to escape Naziism.
He is considered a member of the "New York School", or a second generation Abstract Expressionist, and studied under Hans Hoffman. His art is collected by top tiered American museums, and is represented by several noteworthy galleries, including the Ameringer-Yohe in NYC.
Mr. Kahn's career can be explored through a number of books, including
Wolf Kahn's America and Wolf Kahn Pastels.
My own affinity with Kahn's work has no relation to our name similarity. When I took up landscape painting, I realized that I had an academic understanding of color, but little experience with it. Did I have that natural ability, or knack, for making colors "sing" that some artists have? There was only one way to find out.
I knew, by the way, that my mother had a way with colors. She wasn't a painter, but she knitted and did various other crafts. My own path was to look intensely at Wolf Kahn's works and seek to understand what he was doing with color that stood out.
Also, the flattened perspectives and vertical lines speak to the formal qualities of modern art, which interests me greatly. One trick I used early in my research was to take a color composition of Kahn's, and turn the wheel one color to the left or right and see what could be done. After doing a few paintings this way, I just evolved my own color ideas. Walked on my own, so to speak.
It bothers me not the least that my pastels look much (or something) like Kahn's artwork. He is a noted master, and derivation is the natural path of art. I am interested in the vision of current artists who are focused on color first. What makes them authentic? Is the contemporary colorist work saying anything that the fauves didn't already say?
My pastels are more like Kahn's oil paintings than his pastels. I am interested in the medium of pastel to the extent that it offers some very new and current content to the art world. Kahn's pastels are more in the realm of drawing. And they are the best of drawing - loose, free, formalistic, and new. They do, however, smack of the traditional study-for-a-painting methods that have been a hallmark of pastel work for years. Nothing wrong with that. Drawing is the original art, and must be connected to the past somehow.
New School Color
Wolf Kahn dot Com