Wolf Kahn: Density & Transparency

June 23 - October 8, 2017

Wolf Kahn refers to himself as a “scrubber.”

“I scrub, scrub, scrub,” he says, describing the way in which he builds his compositions with multiple layers of thinned paint applied in quick, scratchy strokes.

Kahn’s preferred applicator is a cheap, stiff-bristled brush, the kind that do-it-yourselfers buy by the dozen and toss instead of cleaning. Until recently, the top layers of Kahn’s paintings were often a thicket of spindly, dry strokes, resulting in a delicate tracery of lines atop bold swaths of color. This approach generated surface tension and created the shimmering quality of light characteristic of Kahn’s paintings.

Over the past decade, Kahn’s vision has been affected by macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease, which has led him to experiment with new methods and materials. He still begins each painting by scrubbing in the basic composition and colors, but his approach to the top layers has changed. In place of his old, scratchy brush, Kahn now uses various types of oil sticks to produce bold forms and fields of densely saturated color.

Perceptual phenomena have always been a central concern of Kahn’s work, and these recent paintings are no exception. They capture brilliantly the way in which light interacts with form, alternately substantiating or dissolving it. They are evidence, too, of Kahn’s unflagging mastery of color. Although his eyesight is diminished and he is working with new materials, Kahn continues to coax the subtlest whisper or the most bombastic oratory out of his chromatic combinations.

On the eve of his 90th birthday, Wolf Kahn has embraced change and elevated his art to a new level.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

Born in Stuttgart in 1927, Wolf Kahn fled Germany for the United Kingdom at age 12 and moved to the United States in 1940. After attending the High School of Music and Art in New York City, he continued his studies at the Hans Hofmann School, eventually becoming Hofmann’s studio assistant. Kahn later relocated to Chicago where he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago.

Kahn’s works are in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Brooklyn Museum. In January 2017 Kahn was awarded the International Medal of Arts by the U.S. State Department.

Since 1968, Kahn and his wife, artist Emily Mason, have spent their summers living and working in southern Vermont.

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Wolf Kahn: Density & Transparency is generously sponsored by Foard Panel, with additional support provided by The Richards Group.

All works in this exhibit are on loan courtesy of the artists and Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe.

In connection with this exhibit, BMAC is offering a limited-edition, museum-quality, giclee print of the 2017 Wolf Kahn oil painting Orange Behind the Trees (info here) and is raffling off an original 2009 pastel painting, Rising Toward Pierre and Ellen’s House (info here).


Photo Gallery


June 23, Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Opening of Six New Exhibits
July 18, Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. – Book Signing: Wolf Kahn 
October 6, Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Raffle Drawing