Tobi Kahn: AURA – New Paintings from Nature

May 22nd, 2018
Tobi Kahn: AURA – New Paintings from Nature

Tobi Kahn’s new paintings summarize the complexities of nature into poetic observations of fluid shapes and delicate lines. His reverence for the landscape is consolidated into organic forms and a limited palette that lead into a mysterious realm reflecting both inner and outer vistas.

The foundations of his paintings can be associated with the later works of Henri Matisse and the Color Field movement that emerged in New York in the late 1950s and 1960s. Hans Hoffman, a primary influence in this movement declared, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Like the artists Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko and Kenneth Noland, Tobi Kahn reflects this notion through his own distinctive perspectives.

Structurally, his paintings are modest in composition, color and line. A reserved elegant style emerges. At first glance, the works may seem somewhat nonspecific, but in fact, they are based on observations of nature. In many cases, colors are reduced to only lighter shades, mid-tones and darks, while other paintings utilize a limited palette of similar contrast and value. The resulting subtle shades are defined with a subtle but distinctive outline which unifies and anchors the entire composition. The emotional effect upon the observer can lead to a quiet appreciation for the endless tones of nature.

The varied references to landscape in Mr. Kahn’s work are obvious at times but can also seem obscure. Some works utilize an oblique viewpoint with a distinct horizon. Implied rivers and waterways extend into the distance but are painted flatly with minimal texture. An elegant decorative quality saturates the surface of each work. At times overhead topographies seem to be delineated through simplified abstractions. Here the forms take on a fluid ambiguity with flat interlocking patterns framing a central shape. Certain works suggesting trees have an implied shallow depth as one form crosses another. In other paintings contrasting shapes occupy the same plane with only differing color values and faint outlines to distinguish them. In other motifs, one might detect a basic reference to leaves or flowers beyond the abstract indications.

There is a tranquil spontaneous feeling about this exhibition, but the actual nature of the work goes beyond that. Although a personal compassion for nature may be the basis for these paintings an essential mystic spirit prevails and emanates from these interpretations.

David Fithian
Curator of Art and Exhibitions
The Museum of Art – DeLand, Florida