Wyatt Kahn
April 2 - May 7, 2017



Wyatt Kahn doubles down on his unique formal vocabulary with six exquisite new constructions. This exhibition invites the audience to a goofy key party, with frequent surprise guest appearances, including the one and only Dr. Frankenstein, a mentor to Kahn as he attempts to create life itself from canvas and linen. With subtle guile, Kahn proposes a frozen moment of slapstick emptiness, clearing the way for these giant molars to chomp their way through concrete.

Dog is made of thirteen canvases, each individually wrapped in linen. These segments combine into growing conglomerate formations, connected with tight, buzzing transitions highlighting intimate geometric details, like close-ups of a swan. Right angles across the top and bottom are broken and resumed, hinting at ubiquitous tall rectangle art, buried deep in Kahn’s visual puzzle. As the confederate groupings of related parts threaten to overthrow the unity of the whole, one begins to wonder where, in this rhythmic and flush aggregate outline, is the dog? Awaiting this phantom canine's appearance, the audience is assigned a search, while being led around the painting by a myriad of simple metric relationships (the leash). The audience is the dog, on a walk. Or is there a dog and I just haven’t seen it? Show me.

Kahn offers new developments to his shaped canvas work with the introduction of stuffed paintings. With three arms, two or three legs (depending on who is who), and two eyes each, Jamie and Alex are a pair, a smaller and a larger, locked in a sweethearts hug, anthropomorphic artworks in the simplest, silliest way possible, one unit. Sam, Sam and Sam follows up with a repetitive variation, suggesting growing up, growing bigger, a psychological triplet, and a question of bio-mechanical necessity: how to walk on one leg, or three, controlled by three separate minds, or one? Whoops. Extra fingers pop up. Eyeholes or buttholes? Sewn together. Harper suffers the least, endowed with a superset of limbs all her own, and a privileged position in the back corner of the gallery. Their small, hard, perfectly round eyes are surprisingly menacing, and offer the perfect spot for a hidden surveillance camera (contact gallery staff for availability of this option).

In Late, slowness appears on the face of a clock. The time is 2:20, suggesting that someone is twenty minutes late. Twenty minutes late is exactly the edge between casually delayed and unforgivably tardy. I was twenty seven minutes late to our third studio visit. Sorry about that, Wyatt. The two left feet on the left offer a reasonable excuse for this unpunctuality, as anyone with such a serious handicap cannot be expected to always be on time, especially in New York City, where the architectural fabric assumes complementary bipedalism. The small linen segments imperfectly align, creating gaps and spaces between the numeral indicators on the clock face, emphasizing the crooked chunkiness of the toes, leading into another visual puzzle established by an overlaid motif of evenly spaced rectangles that drop across the face of the work at a diagonal. This pattern of voids creates physical problems in each spot where they occur, altering the construction of the depictions in awkwardly comedic ways. Looking at the hidden inward sides of the relief reveals that Kahn has meticulously extended the logic of his personal approaches to linen unto every exposed inch.

Midnight Straws addresses the temporal through a depiction of movement. A light bulb is dropped by grasping hands. A universal human moment, the inexplicable release of fragile things without cause seems a passing defect of consciousness, with permanent results. Like the two left feet in Late, Kahn invokes fallibility. Human imperfection, this innocent inescapability of unconscious mistakes, forms the basis of a gentle, humane attitude embedded in all of Kahn’s work. The title also hints at the personal frustration boiling under common error: the feeling of stupidity, of being tired late at night, the desire to persevere and work through fatigue but causing more damage by being overeager, the tension between eagerly wanting something done as soon as possible (tight and clumsy and angry and impatient) or getting it done well (slow and relaxed and an acceptance of mistakes with the confidence of adjustment). Kahn’s work ethic, expressed through turtle movements conjured into being with hours of unspectacular work, does not improve when hurried. The narrative order in Midnight Straws, told in square hunks, bisected at right angles, occurs underneath two linked trapezoids, suggesting a higher unity in which the three terms - hands, lightbulb - become two. And there is no broken glass.

Kahn’s patient creativity plays a rare long game, established through painfully elegant compositions steeped in the joyfully banal, ponderous to make and even slower to ponder. Time, cast as a wrestler, maintains a constant presence, shrewdly negotiating for another round on Kahn’s blank surfaces, which provide a textured opening, an empty playground, a fine-toothed jungle gym to floss with our eyes. Kahn’s durable practice, following a set of highly idiosyncratic manners, offers an ecstasy of responsibility, musing on restraint while simultaneously gripping the inevitable.