Wolf Kahn is one of the most highly regarded colorists working today. By blurring the boundaries between pictorial landscape and painterly abstraction, he evokes an ethereal world, a world marked by epiphanies. Kahn centers his paintings on the way masses of saturated hues can be made to “push and pull” each other into space. A summer sunset blazes with a very red; a thicket of trees distilled to their most elemental, silhouetted by a luminous yellow light. Kahn takes scenery that is once universal and transforms shape and color into something wholly unique.
Born in Germany in 1927, Kahn fled to England during World War II and ultimately emigrated with his family to New York City. He studied with the seminal Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann, becoming his studio assistant. Kahn continues to paint in a distinctly figurative realm with Hofmann’s influence reverberating through Kahn’s mastery of chromatic tension and movement.
Although he came of age immersed in Abstract Expressionism, Kahn veered from his peers and turned to nature for inspiration. Kahn’s color fields grow from his immersion outdoors. For decades, he has divided his calendar between New York City and southeastern Vermont. He spends summers with his wife, the painter Emily Mason, in verdant Vermont, but come winter he works in his NYC studio.
Kahn, now 91 years old, has amassed an oeuvre that spans six decades. Kahn’s work is included in preeminent private and public collections: the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Modern Art; and the Jewish Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and both the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC. Kahn is a member of the National Academy of Design and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of numerous awards including a Fulbright Scholarship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.