Santa Barbara, CA
Waterhouse Gallery, October 4-25
This story was featured in the October 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
A raincoat-clad woman strolling away as an umbrella shields her from drizzle—and the viewer’s gaze. The fiery eye-lock of two dancers wrapped in a passionate tango. A chef in a kitchen salting his artistic creation. Such are the subjects of paintings by Andre Kohn, an intriguing impressionist whose portrayals at once beckon and tease the viewer as the narratives remain mysterious.
These portraits of everyday happenings form the substance of Kohn’s solo show, his first at Waterhouse Gallery, which opens with an artist’s reception on October 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. and remains on display through October 25. Kohn’s travels to Montreal and along Italy’s Amalfi Coast inspired the two dozen paintings presented in the exhibition.
Customarily, he takes snapshots during his excursions and then returns to his studio in Newport Beach, CA, to paint. Although Russian by heritage, his depictions tend toward French Impressionism, capturing leisure scenes rather than those of the proletariat. He captures the essence, the power, of a moment, translating it on canvas through his own language and vision. In this show, he explores scenes to which he’s typically drawn: women browsing in hat shops or enjoying a glass of wine, children at play, a ballet rehearsal.
Poised, self-confident, European wom-en attired in designer clothing have also figured prominently in several of Kohn’s previous series, including one centered on Chanel. In this show, a large-scale painting of a sophisticate in vintage Dior meandering through Montreal with a white umbrella emerges as the signature painting and introduces a new series based around women attired by that designer.
For Kohn, a solo show is an occasion not only to commence new themes but also to pull from his studio treasure trove. “I sometimes leave pieces back for myself, maybe because I had a personal connection with one. Then a few years later, I’ll decide to share it with collectors. Every solo show that I do, I like to pull out a little surprise,” he says.
Despite the surprises, Kohn’s work remains identifiably his own. “I think he has a very distinctive style … his paintings are both vivid and intimate,” says gallery owner Diane Waterhouse.
Kohn pursued a life in the arts despite the near impossibility of making a living as a painter in the communist U.S.S.R. where he grew up. “I wanted to challenge myself, to see how far I could go,” he says. Classically trained by the best Russian social realists in Moscow and impressionists in Paris, he soaked up the tutelage as though he were a sponge. “I found my own style. Even I cannot create my own paintings,” Kohn says. “The texture I create is almost as organic as a leaf on a tree.” —Ashley M. Biggers
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