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Who’s Scott Kahn and why’s he noticed?

kahnyellowroom The quirky art of Scott Kahn at the Arthur Ross Gallery (see Roberta’s post) carried me along with such enthusiasm that I went to a talk about it Thursday by David Cohen, an art critic from New York and editor of

kahnstudioI was under the mistaken impression that Cohen was going to talk about sleep and dreams in relation to Kahn’s surrealistic work. My mistake was understandable. After all, the title of the talk was “Hyperattention: Fantasy Realism, Trance-like Technique, and ‘Critical-Paranoid’ Tendencies” (critical-paranoid is a Salvador Dali coinage, according to Cohen). And the talk was part of this year’s Penn Humanities Forum series, “Sleep and Dreams.”

kahncouchInstead, Kahn talked about Kahn’s work in relation to the Modernist art historical record (the title of the talk summarizes where Kahn’s work veers away from Modernist orthodoxy).

Essentially, he mounted a slide show (I’m always happy to look at visual aids) of what’s hot in art these days that somehow relates to Kahn’s work. He added on some ancestors of that work, and some relatives of the ancestors and cousins of the current practitioners.

kahnselfportraitKahn, whose work is sui generis, has earned recognition, said Cohen, because of these relations.

Here’s a barely edited list of the relatives:

fineborubberFrida Kahlo

Henri Rousseau

Grandma Moses

a fusion of Magritte and Grandma Moses (Cohen credited the exhibit notes on the gallery wall for this one)

Joshua Johnson

Andrew Wyeth “for a sense of interiority and a willingness to paint every blade of grass”

Nicole Eisenman for “personalist fantasy and allegory” which is being embraced by the New York scene these days

Hillary Harkness for “cartoon narratives” and awkwardness

Mark Greenwold

Chuck Close

James Sienna for “imagery through repetition” and tantric qualities

Lucas Samaras

Zenobia Bailey

Jane Fine (image right above)

David Brody

zellerelementalinversionDaniel Zeller (recognize his work, right, from the Altoids show?)

Damian Loeb for sci-fi sensibility, but more illustrational

Salvador Dali

Surrealists–and unconscious drawing and its impact on Pollock and deKooning

Charles LeDray


Julie Heffernan–bewildering and exhilarating (right, “Study Self-Portrait”)

Bruce Pearson

Fred Tomaselli for the labor of making the work, which becomes an experience

Whew! Some of these seemed a stretch, some not.


But notably missing from this list is the one artist whom his work most strongly calls up–Philadelphia artist Sarah McEneaney (image, “Morning”). She and Kahn paint every blade of grass, paint about their lives, show architecture and nature in their works, use a non-standard perspective, and paint their private worlds with affection and non-ironic tenderness.