December 19, 2014

Looking at Art

Across the expanse of this large canvas, Wolf Kahn re-creates the effect of the light changing from moment to moment as the sun sets. If we focus on one corner of After Glow in Maine, 1991 and then another, when we return to the first it seems the light has changed. At twilight, the eye has trouble focusing because the light is disappearing so quickly, and Kahn even manages to create that condition.

He builds up the canvas in layers of colors, realizing recognizable details of the landscape only with his last strokes of the brush. We can inspect inch by inch the subtle gradations of color. He seems to have utilized every portion of the color spectrum from a shocking pink to the richest royal purple. There is a pomp and pageantry to how he has arranged his colors that's at once arresting and soothing. He balances the heat of the light with the cool graphite gray of clouds that dissipate in the glow of the pink sky, presenting us with a vista so vast we imagine we can see evidence of the curvature of the earth.

This profound painting balances the real and the abstract, the tangible and the imagined. In some respects Kahn has outdone nature, for he has frozen in time moments that are evanescent, providing the viewer with the seemingly impossible-a permanent changing sunset.

Wolf Kahn's work can be seen at Marianne Friedland Gallery in Naples.

-Mark OrmondĀ 

Mark Ormond is a Southwest Florida art historian and consultant.