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In the words of other art historians and critics:
Unlike much current biomorphic painting ... Tobi Kahn looks to nature, on its most expansive and most intimate scale, for his sources. and like the artists he names as his inspirations, among them Arthur Dove and Forrest Best, he has tapped into a vein that continues to yield rewards.
Tobi Kahn's paintings are visual opiates. In his new work, rhythmic lines suggesting shapes lull the viewer into a dream state ... The mood, profoundly romantic, is Ryderesque in its melancholy, Redonesque in its mysticism. Landscape is the reference point of these abstractions, but it is a primordial landscape that Kahn evokes, a landscape stripped of detail, divorced from time and place, soaked in our collective memory.
As early as 1977, Kahn fashioned shrines ... Whimsy mixed with ritual suggested a cross between Joseph Cornells intimate dreamscapes and Louise Nevelson's somber assemblages, but with Kahn's work, the idea of enclosure, the importance of housing objects within a kind of relinquary, has remained a central concern ...
Everything was shaped primarily by the imagination. This is most true of Mr. Kahn's slow-moving paintings, in which earth, water, and sky seem to fit together and find peace for a sustained but always precarious moment a subdued palette of subtle tonalities and corporal texture, Kahn has created paintings that can be seen as abstracted landscapes, seascapes, and skyscapes. But old distinctions between the figurative and abstract are meaningless in the ambiguous paintings by Kahn, who has stripped his experiences of the landscape to the essential organic energies of natural forms. His paintings belong to Romantic tradition of fantasy as seen in the work of American painters such as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Arthur Dove or the proto-Expressionist landscapes by Edvard Munch all dealing with the mysterious and impalpable aspects of nature.
Kahn also exhibited sculptures that resemble small temples or shrines, simplified architectural boxes whose doorways contain tiny figures that look like effigies of a lost culture ... Taken as a whole, his work seems to aspire to an imagined or invented universe ...
These amoebalike forms spring into protoplasmic life, rubbing sensuously against each other as they push across the paper and press against its edges ... Forms that allude to birds, body parts, flowers, and volcanic fissures seem at once frozen, locked in place, and on the brink of flowing ... off the page.
1997 Council for Creative Projects, Inc. All rights reserved.
Lee, Massachusetts, and New York, New York
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 97-66919
Survival Rites by Michael Brenson. 1997 Michael Brenson
This catalogue has been published with the generous support of the Robert Lee Blaffer Trust; Mitchell Investment Management Company, Inc.; The Green Fund; Armin and Ann C. Kessler; Charles A. and Ilana Horowitz Ratner; Rose and Morton Landowne; Tracey and Mark Bilski; Clyde Hershan; Sybil and Arthur Levine; and other funders.
None of this material may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of Mitchell and Company.
All artwork Copyright 1996 by Tobi Kahn. No artwork may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of Tobi Kahn and Mitchell and Company.
© 1998 Mitchell and Company
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