According to the art critic Dore Ashton, Tobi Kahn’s art “unites our perception of the material with our memory.” This is only fitting for a man whose Jewish heritage permeates all aspects of his work. Whether in his mysterious paintings, reminiscent of biological and geographical formations, or in his sculptures of sanctuaries and sacred monumental pieces, or in the design of furniture and ambient space for a hospital meditation room, Kahn’s work draws us into meditation. As Ted Prescott puts it, Kahn’s art causes us to dip into the “deep wells within us where longing and memory intermingle.” The Philadelphia Inquirer calls his work “perfectly balanced between extremes of abstract and representational…. having an uneasy mixture of authority and idiosyncrasy—and sometimes just a bit beyond human reach.”
Some of Kahn’s work is featured in Image issue 33.
Tobi Kahn is internationally acclaimed as a painter and sculptor. His work has been shown in over 40 solo exhibitions and over 60 museum and group shows since he was selected as one of nine artists to be included in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, New Horizons in American Art. Kahn’s paintings and sculpture have been the subject of an extensive bibliography in art magazines, catalogues and newspapers since the early 1980s.
A museum exhibition of over a decade of his work, Tobi Kahn: Metamorphoses, curated by Peter Selz, traveled to eight museums from 1997 through 1999, including the Weatherspoon Museum, Greensboro, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. An 84-page illustrated catalogue of the exhibition includes essays by Dore Ashton, Michael Brenson and Peter Selz (University of Washington Press).
Works by Kahn are in the collections of major institutions throughout the United States, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Jewish Museum, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Weatherspoon Art Gallery, Greensboro, NC; Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; and Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA. Corporate collections include Swiss Bank Corporation, NY; Chase Manhattan Bank, NY; Prudential Insurance, NY; Dreyfus Corporation, NY; Salomon Brothers, NY; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Neagher & Flom, NY; Exxon Corporation, Miami, FL; and Fidelity Investments, Boston, MA.
Kahn’s commissioned outdoor sculpture includes Shalev, for Jane Owen and the Robert Lee Blaffer Trust, New Harmony, IN; and two Holocaust memorial gardens, in Tenafly, NJ, and La Jolla, CA. His commissioned installations include Eyda, seven paintings for Mitchell and Company, Boston, MA; and The Twelve Tribes and Creation of the World, for the Jewish Family Congregation, South Salem, NY, through a Nathan Cummings Foundation grant; as well as numerous private commissions.
In March 1999, Avoda: Objects of the Spirit, an exhibition of Kahn’s ceremonial objects curated by Laura Kruger, opened at Hebrew Union College, NY, and will travel for five years. Other Judaica commissions include the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Battery Park City, NY.
In December 1999, Kahn designed an installation of nine “Sky and Water” paintings for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Landscape at the Millennium exhibition, curated by Douglas Dreishpoon.
In November 2000, a solo exhibition of Kahn’s paintings and works on paper, curated by Mark White, opened at the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art. It will travel to four other venues. The exhibition will include a catalogue, Metaphor and Transport: Tobi Kahn and the Aerial View.
In May 2000, Kahn received the Outstanding Achievement Award in fine art as an alumnus of Pratt Institute. In March 2001, Heads, a solo exhibition of Kahn’s early work, opened at Pratt, curated by Peter Selz and accompanied by a catalogue.
Kahn’s handmade toys have been included in museum shows across the country. He has also designed sculpture sets for theater productions, including Jonah and The Song of Songs, both by composer Elizabeth Swados, and for work by choreographers Gus Solomons and Muna Tseng.
In November 2001, a meditative room created by Kahn was inaugurated as a permanent installation at the HealthCare Chaplaincy in New York City.
In November 2002, a solo exhibition of Kahn’s paintings based on creation, will open at the Yeshiva University Museum in Chelsea, New York. In May 2003, an exhibition of Kahn’s “Sky and Water” paintings opens at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, New York.
Kahn is currently creating a chapel commissioned by Jane Owen and the Blaffer Trust to be constructed in New Harmony, Indiana. He is working with the architect to design the building, which will consist of one large room of his murals and two side chapels of his paintings and sculpture.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.