Art in Tribeca: Wyatt Kahn at City Hall Park

The Public Art Fund‘s shows in City Hall Park never disappoint, but I think this might be one of my favorites. “Wyatt Kahn: Life in the Abstract” opens today, but I happened to bike through on Monday evening as they were lighting the sculptures and it is just spectacular at night. The show is up through February 2023.

There are seven monumental sculptures crafted out of rusted yet vibrant Cor-Ten steel, each placed in the corners of the park. (Some of the shows the park has hosted has sited the work in the gardens, and I love that these are mostly on the pathways.) The park almost seems custom made for them.

Wyatt Kahn, Morning, 2021 | Photo by Nicholas Knight | Courtesy Public Art Fund

Kahn is a New Yorker, and works here, yet this is his first exhibit in a public space (he is only 39). He often produces canvas wall works that combine geometric shapes with everyday objects — so you can see the extension of that work here, with the giant comb and eye glasses. They remind me of simplified (that is not a critique) Louise Nevelsons, though you can compare and contrast yourself by walking down to William Street. (In fact, that would be a great circuit on a Sunday morning, maybe ending at Hole in the Wall or Industry Kitchen for brunch…)

“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 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.”

Kahn’s work is in the collections of the Whitney, The Metropolitan, MoMA, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, MOCA in LA and more.

Here’s more from curator Daniel S. Palmer:

“While primarily known as a painter, Wyatt Kahn has explored the relationships between painting and sculpture throughout his career,” says 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.”

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.

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, Untitled, 2021 | Photo by Nicholas Knight | Courtesy Public Art Fund


1 Comment

  1. So thrilled for Wyatt – not just a great artist but a great guy.

    If you want to own some of his work, without a big $$ hit, he has done some amazing limited edition prints with ULAE (where Jasper Johns has done most of his prints – many of which lined the entrance wall at the recent retrospective). Link below, could not figure out how to insert a pretty URL hyperlink above.