Public Art Fund is pleased to present Life in the Abstract, an exhibition of new large-scale sculptures by artist Wyatt Kahn. It will bring seven vibrant rust red Cor-Ten steel artworks to City Hall Park for Khan’s first exhibition in public space. Kahn has adapted forms previously explored in his canvas wall works, combining elements of geometric abstraction with playful “readymade” objects from everyday life like a comb and a phone. Juxtapositions such as glasses resting on abstract shapes and a foot about to crush a lightbulb produce playful narrative compositions. These new works expand the lineage of modernist public sculpture, while the significance of each artwork takes on personal meaning and resonance for the viewer. Life in the Abstract is the New York City-based artist’s first public art exhibition and will be on view from June 8 through December 11, 2022 at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.
“While primarily known as a painter, Wyatt Kahn has explored the relationships between painting and sculpture throughout his career,” says Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator Daniel S. Palmer. “This impressive new body of sculptures translate his distinctive visual vocabulary of geometric and representational forms into monumental sculptures that integrate aesthetic concerns with quotidian objects to dramatic effect.”
Above, Wyatt Kahn in conversation with Daniel s. Palmer (Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator for Wyatt Kahn: Life in the Abstract) in April, 2022 on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Pile Ups/Cut Outs’ at Xavier Hufkens in Belgium.
Over the last decade, Kahn has examined the spatial relationship between painting and sculpture. His practice explores the interplay of two and three dimensions by using several panels of uniquely shaped canvas that evoke the tradition of minimalist abstraction. Kahn has developed a language comprising representational and abstract forms that integrate formal concerns with items from everyday life. Geometric shapes from his earliest series of canvas paintings take on new life when combined with quotidian icons. In Untitled (2021), one of the new sculptures in Life in the Abstract, Kahn reimagines the abstract shaped canvas that first appeared in Drifter, a painting created in 2011.
“The figures and groupings in this exhibition each have their own narrative, and I hope that visitors will find their own meaning in the works based on their own experiences,” says artist Wyatt Kahn. “To me, the potted plant in my new sculpture Morning (2021) represents nurturing an idea, while someone else may be reminded of the plant they raised throughout the pandemic.”
For Life in the Abstract, Kahn is working with new materials at a monumental scale for the first time. Parade, the largest of the artworks, will weigh nearly 3,300 lbs and measure over 15 feet wide. Each of the seven sculptures comprise numerous sections of steel that have been welded together into block-like forms, their front and back mirroring each other to create an illusion of drawing in space. The artworks have taken on a deep, rusted red tone as a result of the natural weathering process of Cor-Ten steel. In dialogue with the park’s lush surroundings, the sculptures also simultaneously evoke the steel structures of the city’s architecture and infrastructure. Kahn’s seven massive new sculptures invite all audiences to bring their own experiences and interpretations to Life in the Abstract.
Wyatt Kahn (b. 1983) lives and works in New York. Kahn is primarily known for his investigations into the visual and spatial relationship between painting and sculpture. Kahn assembles complex wall-mounted works in which the gaps between the individual canvases give rise to abstract or pictorial compositions. Rather than tracing the lines and shapes directly onto the canvas itself, he turns them into physical components of the artwork. Referencing the tradition of minimalist abstraction, Wyatt Kahn’s monochrome multi-panel ‘paintings’ are informed by a desire to explore non-illusory forms of representation. In essence, their subject becomes the interplay between two and three dimensions, as experienced via shifts in surface, structure and depth. In Kahn’s work, the wall upon which the work is hung becomes an integral part of the composition. Interested in a painting’s potential to function as the very embodiment of the object it depicts, Kahn has also developed works in which the shaped stretchers combine to create the form of an actual object, while a synthesis of hand-drawn motifs and words epitomize its essential qualities. His work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; MOCA, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, among others.
Wyatt Kahn: Life in the Abstract will be on view from June 8 to December 11, 2022 in City Hall Park. The installation is curated by Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator Daniel S. Palmer, PhD.