The paintings on view cleverly blur the line between abstraction and representation. In some ways, the entire show feels like one big optical puzzle. Though various forms—like a watch and a nose—can be deciphered on each canvas, no paint has been applied to their surfaces. Instead, a variety of sliced linen panels have been placed so that, when viewed at the right angle, the panels’ sides come together to form shapes—edges of canvas doubling as drawn lines. The images that result paradoxically materialize out of nothingness. What’s more, the panels that make up each painting have been placed at different depths, with some flush against the wall and others poking towards the viewer. The sense of space produced by this arrangement contrasts with the images’ pictorial flatness to a dizzying effect.
The images conjured by Kahn’s process of piecing forms together extends the conversation between abstraction and representation that he has explored across his body of work. In each piece in this series, a cartoonish outline of a mundane object (feet, a key) is overlaid with a simplistic pattern of shapes (circles, rectangles). Kahn might be seen as humorously layering the most literal interpretations of “abstraction” and “representation” into a single painting. Particularly clever is Perspective (2015). Here, a single detached eye peers upward, covered by a group of off-kilter squares. The eye is wide-open, suggesting wonder or amazement—perhaps a cheeky analogy between the acts of viewing art (perspective in the painterly sense) and interacting with the world (perspective in a psychological sense).