View Full Version : Wolf Kahn - Why?

11-02-2006, 05:58 PM
Has anyone seen a close up of a Wolf Kahn? I checked out his website and they are mostly 8x10's and my nephews doodles are better. I just don't get it. They don't even seem abstract, but less worthy of the attention. I know I should support all artists, it's good karma, but for the life of me how in the world did this man get famous?

Deborah Secor
11-02-2006, 07:07 PM
To each his own--I happen to admire his work. He uses simplicity of color, gesture, line and I find them lyrical, challenging, sometimes quite beautiful. He has a body of work from a lifetime of painting that is very diverse, and he was diagnosed with macular degeneration a few years ago. That may effect what he is producing now, but I still find his work compelling in most instances. Just my humble opinion...


11-02-2006, 07:17 PM
Khan trained in a fairly classical way. (read his bio, he has wonderful experiences to pass on) It is my feeling that over time he has been able to distill the essence of a scene and pass it along using a paucity of stroke. His color sense is magical.

Perhaps this is the way children see the world too, and at times can produce amazing pieces.

11-02-2006, 07:49 PM
I love Wolf Khan and I have two large books of his works, one of just pastels and the other one covers most of his life work. I love his color and the simplicity of his work. I believe Katherine Hurley may have studied with him, if I am not mistaken, and she is one of my all time favorites. I refer to his works often when I want to try to simplify; he does it masterfully. Try to get a look at the large volume of his work in print, titled "Wolf Khan" by Justin Spring. Okay, there's my trying-to-be-more-humble opinion.

11-02-2006, 08:54 PM
I was looking at his latest works and was wondering why they didn't look like the prints I've seen. The majority seemed overly simplified but after what Dee said, I understand now. I like his oil paints, it's just the recent ones on his website and since I really don't study his work, never was all that drawn to it, I was somewhat surprised...

Good to know..

11-03-2006, 01:15 PM
He's a second generation man of the Abstract Expressionists, with a big background in New York art circles. When he started after WW II, of course, things were very New York centric. Thankfully, we have this internet thing today that makes regionalism a thing of the past.
He derives his influences from Hans Hoffman, Kandinsky and Mark Rothko. Diane Townsend has a very Mark Rothko influence, too. I really love her work.
If you look closely, it isn't hard to see the influence of Van Gogh, who IMHO was the first modern artist. He made art that could be considered cartoonish at first blush, but it really blazed a trail for future artists to more freely explore color and also abstraction.
One thing that really sticks in my mind from Wolf Kahn's commentary in one of his books was this statement: "the role of information in art is minimal".
Since I try to follow what Kahn has to teach through his art, I err towards the abstract myself. You can just see the gears turning in the heads of some observers of my work, and imagine them saying: "that don't look like nuthin!" LOL.

11-03-2006, 01:24 PM
Who knows what any of us see in art, what makes it special. I just know that a few months ago someone suggested I check out Wolf Kahn. I did and his work immediately struck a chord with me. In the short time since I have collected four books on his work. The appeal to me certainly has to do with the colors but I suppose also with the way he simplifies and deals with subtle subject matter. Whether its in pastel or oil, I just find his work very pleasing and inspiring.

11-03-2006, 05:17 PM
Who knows what any of us see in art, what makes it special. I just know that a few months ago someone suggested I check out Wolf Kahn.

I'd never seen his work before, so I went to look at some pastels on his web site. I admit they did nothing really for me, just a sort of "eh" feeling, so indeed who knows what makes things special for people. And some of us are not even consistent, :lol:.

I mean personally I don't generally care for ultra-realistic words, and I also don't care for muted palettes but prefer bright vibrant colors. Yet Andrew Wyeth's painting "Northern Point":

is probably one of my favorite paintings of all time, even though it fails every test of what I would claim I like best in art. :D

terence p
11-03-2006, 10:18 PM
I have never seen his work before so I just looked it up. I like them very much. The colors he uses are exqusite. His style is nothing like mine but I think, from the samples Ive just seen, he is terrific.

11-03-2006, 11:08 PM
i gotta go with tulips--just dont' care for it, and have often wondered why myself!! i do not think only realist art is 'good', and can see the 'art' in many other styles, mediums, etc., but sometimes there is an artist like this that just makes me wonder too! and i just wonder, now how did he get to his status?? if i tried selling that, or even showing it, i'd be told to go home!

11-03-2006, 11:28 PM
Consider this: Wolf Kahn's works are poetic. He expresses himself and the world he sees in fewer, but more vibrant and impressionistic, words. Whereas, realistic artists are more like novelists, plotting every detail and matching color and characters to extreme exactness. Who is right? Neither. Both are beautiful to read and behold. Both have their place in this world...


terence p
11-04-2006, 02:27 PM
I havent had a chance to look though my current issue of the Pastel Journal until this morning. Hard to believe but this issue had an article on Wolf Kahn. It was showing his current work. While I really liked his work that I had looked up the other day on the internet, I really didnt care for the ones in the issue - his more current.

Bill Foehringer
02-07-2007, 10:52 AM
I'll bring this thread back rather than starting another. Someone mentioned that a couple of my works looked a little like Wolf Kahn and I wondered why. His book then popped out at me from the library stacks. "Wolf Kahn's America" The timing was just right because I had been made aware of his name. I thoroughly enjoyed what he wrote about his life and his ideas about art. If one were to only read the text of this book and not look at the paintings or know the writers name one would never guess his work would look like it does.
Certainly he has pushed things to the extreme in his art but he sees and transmutes his experience of what he sees in a way that could have been described by what Pissarro and Cezanne said about their own painting processes. They just didn't push it as far as Kahn.
Unless one strives for ultra-realistic photographic reproduction of a subject one must experience the "sensation", (as Pissarro referred to it). Then "see" the simplification of form, value, color, and edge in the subject that creates that sensation. Then put that "abstraction" or simplification of response into a mark upon the paper or canvas.
So when I first looked over Kahn's book, I too thought, 'Hmmmm where is the art? What makes this museum-grade work?'
I saw, though, his response to the subject and his effort to make the simplest, boldest image he could that would convey his reponse. It's almost as though once he made the intitial block-in, he stopped right there before he muddied up the vision with details.
This is exactly what made his work valuable to me. His work helped me simplify my work at an early stage. Seeing his use of bold blocks of color helped me think about how to 'abstract' or pull out the basic elements of a scene that impact my feelings about a particular subject.
I choose to add more "information" to my paintings because that's what I need to do to convey my version, "abstraction", "sensation" of a subject.
I tip my hat to Mr Kahn.
I do urge you to read his book I mentioned above. I enjoyed it even as I puzzled over how well he has done for himself.

Bill Foehringer
02-07-2007, 11:11 AM
Debbie C
Yes, the Wyeth painting is an abstraction/simplification with more information. Is it the empty space? The viewpoint? The vintage lightning rod? What creates that timeless feeling? BillF

02-07-2007, 08:34 PM
I really like Wolf Kahn's work too. When I paint, I try to strip down what I see to an essence that expresses the character of what I am seeing. I admire very much Kahn's ability to do this, and make me see beyond what I expect to see. I hope someday I break through and can do something like this in my own developing style (which is very different from Kahn's).

I guess like a lot of things in perception and style, what works might now speak to someone else. That's why we're artists: to try to communicate what it is that we each see.

Dayle Ann

02-09-2007, 08:01 PM
I just finished reading all the Wolf Kahn books and can't believe I didn't know about him sooner than this, although, somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember someone telling me I'd love him and I do. Just wish I'd paid attention sooner.