Wolf Kahn 2015

WOLF KAHN Co l or & Comp l ex i ty

Wolf Kahn’s Studio, New York, NY


Oil on Canvas 32 x 52 inches

WOLF KAHN Co l or & Comp l ex i ty

March 7 - April 25, 2015

Essay by Grace Cote

625 South Sharon Amity Road Charlotte, NC 28211 704.365.3000 gallery@jeraldmelberg.com www.jeraldmelberg.com

Half Hidden (2013) is crusted with layers of color applied via oil stick. Kahn’s application is frenetic and excited, and the unexpected colors that emerge in the shadowed grove, like electric purple and pale pink, convey energy and never appear misplaced. In the composition, branches reach out horizontally to each other out while their trunks soar up and condense into a great wooded mass. A dark cloud hovers over a white building with an orange roof. The texture of the work brings dimensionality, and echoes the bark on the trees he has composed. A similar scene is rendered in Green Remains (2014), whose large size (66 x 52 inches) makes it even more immersive. In a dense wood, colors are eager to compete for the viewer’s attention and rise to a harmonious chorus in a busy gathering of branches. The marks stream through the work as if evidence of extraordinary celebration, or one can assume that is what Wayne Thiebaud would say, as he once credited Kahn for transporting the ordinary into the marvelous . Indeed this landscape does appear celebratory after having undergone the full Kahn treatment. In addition to these energetic works, Kahn shows his versatility through subdued paintings, notable for their more focused and concentrated palates. Spring Foliage (2014) is a meeting of two masses, color-flecked yellow and pale purple gray, which intersect at a swooping horizontal line. In Across the Green Meadow (2013), a central gray-blue shares a stand of white tree trunks with a separate lime green band. They sit under a butter yellow sky, which could denote both clouds and a pale mid-day sky. Kahn’s signature, painted twice at the bottom of the piece, is rendered in the same white as the trees, and each looks like a small offshoot of his forest.

As Wolf Kahn approaches his 90th year, he continues investigating the landscapes he has devoted years of his life to portraying. One ofAmerica’s most treasured living artists, Kahn has established himself through a steady practice of breathing in vistas, filtering them through his painterly mind, and reproducing enhanced versions. In this new body of work, the images audiences have come to depend on - forests, landscapes, small bodies of water - are renewed with a fresh energy. Neither he nor his audiences ever tire of the beauty he elicits from a stand of trees, a barn, or the intersection of spindly branches and sky. There is unexpected color in Wolf Kahn paintings because he sees the world in an amplified way. It is his burden to translate his unique way of seeing the subject to his viewers. Kahn keeps creating, keeps reinventing, and persists in producing scenes dotted with hues across the spectrum. In fact, Kahn believes more in a drive to produce than in having ideas. After all, what is an idea without its execution? In 1990, he stated, an idea is untrustworthy , and instead relies on what he calls appetite , meaning the motivation to act: First comes the energy needed to propel a normally lazy body into the studio. That is known as the appetite for work. Then the appetite for color is felt the moment one squeezes a certain tube and sees a certain specific green or red issuing forth. Then, the appetite to carry things to completion enables all the private feelings to be worth much more than any idea . A notable component to this new work is that much of it was made with oil sticks. Before, it was impossible to meld the texture of pastel with the rich color of oil, but he has now championed the medium.

The horizontal color bands of this and other paintings are telling of Kahn’s studies under Hans Hoffman, famed for his investigation of color relationships. Kahn has employed this technique for decades, a means to differentiate foreground, midground and background, but here he paints them flatly, in swaths of color, which inadvertently imply depth. He does it with saturation in Stand of Trees (2014), and with more modesty in Five Poplars (2014). Kahn appreciates the simplicity in and mystery of this method, exercised repeatedly and never failing to create a scene of depth and substance. To the artist, landscape is something to be endlessly studied, and allowed to manifest itself in myriad ways. In a quote published in the early part of the 90s, Kahn’s seventh decade, he explained his fascination with landscape: Through our investigation of landscape we can express our sense of the connectedness of things, where we stand in relation to them. Above all, we come in touch with those over-arching abstractions that govern our perceptions: the great and the small, near and far, up and down, sharp and soft, smooth and rough. None of this is likely to change soon. There is no end to this investigation, because there is no end to the ways humanity can experience the landscape. Wolf Kahn is one of the greatest living artists to humbly admit this, evidenced by his continually shared perspective through this and other bodies of work.

FIVE POPLARS 2014 Oil on Canvas 22 x 28 inches

Grace Cote

STAND OF TREES 2014 Oil on Canvas 40 x 52 inches

WHITE CENTER 2014 Oil on Canvas 36 x 52 inches

BLACK TREES 2012 Oil on Canvas 40 x 30 inches

COPSE 2014 Oil on Canvas 36 x 68 inches

HALF HIDDEN 2013 Oil on Canvas 52 x 36 inches

GREEN REMAINS 2014 Oil on Canvas 66 x 52 inches

SPRING FOLIAGE 2014 Oil on Canvas 26 x 22 inches

VERTICAL 2014 Oil on Canvas 31 x 18 inches

TREES IN A GRAY BLUE MODE 2014 Oil on Canvas 18 x 32 inches

TREES IN FALL 2013 Oil on Canvas 36 x 68 inches

POPLARS ON THE HORIZON 2013 Oil on Canvas 52 x 66 inches

GRAY TANGLE 2014 Oil on Canvas 24 x 28 inches

PINK, GRAY AND GREEN 2015 Oil on Canvas 36 x 68 inches

LONG AND NARROW 2015 Oil on Canvas 30 x 60 inches

WHITE ROAD 2014 Pastel on Paper 14 x 17 1/2 inches

ACCENT ON YELLOW 2014 Pastel on Paper 14 x 16 1/2 inches

OLD BARN OFF SUNSET LAKE ROAD 2012 Pastel on Paper 12 x 17 1/2 inches

TWO ROADS DIVERGED 2014 Pastel on Paper 9 x 11 5/8 inches

TROPICAL CABIN 2013 Pastel on Paper 11 x 13 1/2 inches

CABIN SET ON RED GROUND 2014 Pastel on Paper 9 x 11 5/8 inches

IN OCTOBER 2008 Pastel on Paper 6 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches

GLOW 2014 Pastel on Paper 11 x 13 1/2 inches

BLUE, RED-PURPLE AND GREEN 2014 Pastel on Paper 14 x 17 1/2 inches

BLUE, RED-PURPLE AND GREEN-VERTICAL 2014 Pastel on Paper 19 1/2 x 14 7/8 inches

SQUARE FOREST PASTEL 2013 Pastel on Paper 19 1/4 x 19 1/4 inches

RIVERSIDE 2013 Pastel on Paper 10 x 11 5/8 inches

Wolf Kahn was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1927 and emigrated to the U.S. as a child. After attending classes at the New School for Social Research he studied with Hans Hofmann at his School of fine art in New York City. In 1951 Kahn received his B.A. from the University of Chicago. An internationally acclaimed artist, Kahn has been honored with numerous awards, including both Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Design, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and has served on the New York Arts Commission. Kahn has come to be widely considered the premier landscape painter in America. Color is Wolf Kahn’s signature and he says this about his work: this is my primary interest. I am always trying to get to the danger point, where color either becomes too sweet or too harsh; too noisy or too quiet. Always striving to keep his art ‘tough’ and to keep an ‘edge’, Wolf Kahn makes landscape paintings with unmatched luminosity.

625 South Sharon Amity Road Charlotte, NC 28211 704.365.3000 gallery@jeraldmelberg.com www.jeraldmelberg.com

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