Conceptual art, traditional media: David Kohan at the AMC

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Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photos courtesy of Kitty Hoffman and Sierra Hawley

David Kohan’s show titled “Presence * Distance,” featuring four paintings and four drawings, opened as 2019’s first show at Aquinas College’s Art & Music Center Gallery with a reception and artist’s talk on Thursday, January 17.

Kohan is a Chicago artist now, but he used to be a Grand Rapidian—he taught at Grand Rapids Community College up to last year, and at the Allendale campus of Grand Valley State University before going to GRCC—so he is familiar figure in the Grand Rapids art scene.  His media are familiar too, all the paintings being oil on canvas, and all the drawings charcoal on paper. What you would find unique at the show are the images he creates while working with such traditional media.

Perhaps the first thing that would catch your eye at the show is the scale of the images.  The paintings are all over six feet tall and seven feet wide; the drawings are all five feet tall, and three of them are nearly six feet wide, while the fourth is ten feet wide.  There are just eight pieces in the show, but the eight pieces fill the gallery, and their sheer scale creates an impressive sense of grandeur.

All the pieces—both the paintings and the drawings—are composed of two kinds of images: abstract patterns and highly realistic representations of everyday objects, such as furniture or machine parts.  In the drawings, the abstract patterns called to my mind coiled spirals—specifically, compressed springs. These patterns dominate the drawings, to the extent that you might not even be fully conscious of the familiar, everyday objects until you read the drawings slowly and closely.  In the paintings, the abstract patterns are coloured geometric shapes, such as squares or rhombi, that tessellate a vertical or horizontal plane, or both. In contrast to the drawings, the everyday objects in the paintings are more prominent, which gives rise to an in-your-face contradiction of both the abstract pattern and the everyday object being present in the same visual space. The contradiction forces your mind to open up a distance between the pattern and the object—the large scale makes this possible—and this distance is inhabited by Kohan’s art.  

I should add that the abstract pattern of coloured rhombi tessellating a vertical wall, but without further complexity, appeared in a series of paintings with collective title “Religion” that Kohan created 15 to 20 years ago—they are not in the gallery, but they are still on his website—and three of the paintings in the show are from the same period, while the fourth, called “Afterlife,” is from last year.  All the drawings, on the other hand, were made within the last five years.

Check out this highly intriguing artwork for yourself —the show runs up to Friday, February 15.  And next up at the gallery will be this year’s student art show, which is set to open on Thursday, February 28.

Yashowanto GhoshYashowanto Ghosh is a senior with a major in English with a writing emphasis and a minor in Japanese. Jasho is also an alumnus of Aquinas (B.A. German ’11, B.A. Communications ’17).

Categories: Culture, The Saint

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