A Couple of Colorists: Artists Kahn, Mason featured together in a rare dual exhibit at Tayloe Piggott

By on February 15, 2018

Tayloe Piggott gallery will offer a respite from the grays of winter with two exhibitions by renowned color field artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason.

As soon a person walks into the gallery they’ll notice the colors, Sophie Schwabacher, a staff member at Tayloe Piggott, said. There is an obvious connection in the two artists work because of their color choice. Upon closer examination there are also obvious distinctions. Kahn includes shapes and forms like trees in his work, while Mason’s paintings are entirely abstract.

Kahn and Mason are married and rarely show together, Schwabacher said. The couple are considered some of the highest regarded colorists of their time, she said.

The shows open with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, and the exhibit will hang through March 31 in the gallery.

Kahn’s exhibition features 17 pieces of work in oil paints and pastels, each from a different year from 2000 to 2017.

Kahn was born in German in 1927 and fled to England during World War II before he emigrated to the New York City. Determined to become a painter after a year in the U.S. Navy, he studied with abstract expressionist Hans Hofman, but Kahn turned away from the trend of the time of total abstraction. He found inspiration in nature that is identifiable in his paintings in the form of trees or skylines instead.

Capturing form in his paintings was unique for the time, but his work is still abstract.

“Even though he uses subject matter like trees or a barn, he’s really using that as a way to work with color,” Schwabacher said.

Kahn’s work has changed through the years. His palette in the 2000s is different than what he used in the 1960s, Schwabacher said.

“His work is more colorful than his earlier work,” Schwabacher said. “The tones are really coming out and there is a just a chromatic intensity there that is really, really rich.”

Today Kahn lives in Vermont and still finds inspiration in nature and the landscape. His work is a blend of realism and color field painting.

“His work is always very surprising and I think that’s important to him as an artist,” Schwabacher said. “It goes back to color. He’s very original in the way he works with paints and pastels in terms of bringing a color balance in that you wouldn’t expect.”

Mason’s work is similar, although entirely abstract. She’s also known for her use of color and her work bridges the color field and lyrical abstraction movements, Schwabacher said. Mason was born in New York in 1932 and after graduating studied in Venice for two years on a Fulbright grant. Her mother, Alice Trumbull Mason, was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group. But Emily Mason came into her own, veering away from the abstract work she’d grown up and the geometric stylings of her mother’s work, to creating more fluid and lyrical abstract paintings.

“She’s much more interested in embracing chance,” Schwabacher said.

Mason works with oil paint. She primes her canvas and then works with very wet paint so it sits on top of the canvas, alive the entire time she works, Schwbacher said.

Mason showed in her first solo exhibition in the Area Gallery in New York City in 1960. She’s continued to frequently show her work nationally and internationally since. She’s also taught painting at Hunter College for more than 30 years.

Mason will show 10 paintings in her exhibition at Tayloe Piggott. She works in a medium size, Schwbacher said.

While both artists have distinctive styles, Schwabacher said, their exhibitions are connected by color. PJH

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason, art exhibitions, reception 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, shows hang through March 31, Tayloe Piggott Gallery, 62 S. Glenwood St.

About Kelsey Dayton

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