Octogenarian painter Wolf Kahn—who was among the second generation of the New York School artists—continues to paint every day. Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe celebrates his recent work with a solo exhibition, featuring the luminous scenes of barns, rivers, meadows, and wooded New England landscapes for which the much-lauded artist is known.
Splitting his time between his studios in New York and Vermont, Kahn renders his bucolic surroundings with a mixture of abstraction and representation and with a keen attentiveness to light and color. Such an approach reflects his early training with Hans Hofmann—yet when asked about his approach to color he has named Titian and Rembrandt as influences. Recently, he has loosened his touch and veered further towards abstraction and inventiveness, as the works on view attest. These lush, vibrant, oil-on-canvas paintings read as studies of form and color as much as meditations on the landscapes he has come to understand so well—and has helped others to know, too.
Of all of the natural and manmade features that Kahn paints—including weathered country buildings, gently rolling hills and fields, open sky and horizon lines—trees figure most prominently in these new works. A grove of delicate saplings forms an almost translucent screen across the surface of Young Growth III (2015). The small trees are nestled into a banded background, composed of orange and spring-green grasses and a gray-blue sky touched with wisps of pink. In Stand of Oaks (2015), the mightier trunks of old oak trees stand out in their deep purples and blacks against a landscape awash in soft yellow-green tones.
The slender trunks of a copse of trees shield a white cottage from full view in Rose Toward Orange (2013). The walls of the little building are touched with the colors of its wooded surroundings, suggesting a harmony between the manmade and the natural. It is harmony, in fact, which characterizes all of Kahn’s work. In his hands, the distinctions between the different natural elements, or between nature and evidence of humankind’s presence within it, become softened and blurred. Looking at his paintings, all seems right with the world.
By Karen Kedmey