A New Artist in The Phillips Collection

Tobi Kahn, Lyie, 1991. Acrylic on board, 32 x 12 x 1-3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of Victoria Schonfeld in memory of her parents, Hilde and Sydney Schonfeld. Photo: Klaus Ottmann

Last June The Phillips Collection acquired its first painting by the New York artist Tobi Kahn, Lyie (1991). It has now been installed in the spiral staircase of the museum’s Goh Annex. Given by Victoria Schonfeld in memory of her parents, the painting is one of Kahn’s most important paintings of his mature period when forms other than landscape, such as flowers, became a dominant theme. Like most of Kahn’s paintings, Lyie is built up of about 20 layers, beginning with modeling paste containing marble dust on top of white underpainting, followed by opaque paint layers, and finally, a layer of translucent washes.

Earlier this year, Kahn gave an inspiring keynote address at the Phillips during its Art & Innovation Design Gathering, an annual meeting of creative minds that is jointly presented by the Phillips and the University of Virginia.

This week Kahn was invited to speak at Georgetown University by the Program for Jewish Civilization. In conversation with Ori Soltes who teaches theology, philosophy, and art history at Georgetown University, Kahn spoke passionately about how he does not consider himself a Jewish artist or a painter or a sculptor, but just an artist; yet at the same time he cannot separate the knowledge of his Jewish heritage from art history. This combination undoubtedly contributes to Kahn’s unique style of painting that seems equally influenced by Jewish mysticism, such as the color symbolism of the Kabbalah, and the tradition of American modernism, so richly represented by The Phillips Collection’s holdings of Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Toward the end of the conversation, Kahn expressed gratitude to The Phillips Collection for his painting being given such generous placement: “Artists always want to have more space, ” he added, “The Phillips Collection is the perfect space.”

Tobi Kahn in conversation with Ori Soltes at Georgetown University, September 20, 2011. Photo: Klaus Ottmann

In Honor of Women’s Equality Day

Berthe Morisot, Two Girls, c. 1894. Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 1/4 inches. Acquired 1925. Paintings, 1390, French.

We’re celebrating Women’s Equality Day, so proclaimed because women in the U.S. were given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, with a look at some of our favorite women artists in the Phillips’s collection. You’ll see the above work by Berthe Morisot on display in the galleries, along with Helen Frankenthaler‘s Runningscape, several works by Georgia O’Keeffe, and pieces by Dorothy Dehner. Staff favorites include Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, Jackie FerraraLoren MacIver, Irene Rice Pereira, Alma Thomas, and of course, Marjorie Phillips. Who are some of your favorite women artists?

Teaching through the Prism: Who Got Science in My Art?

This is the first installment in the Teaching through the Prism series, anticipating our upcoming national forum on Arts Integration, June 23−24. Learn more here.

Third grade student at Turquoise Trail Charter School in New Mexico studies the details of a rock that she will synthesize into a series of abstract artworks, part of a project blending art and geology curricula. Photos: Lynn Grimes

Many of us find that chocolate mixed with peanut butter is pure joy. What if art is our chocolate?  And K−12 education—language arts, math, science, social studies—is the peanut butter? What happens when you blend them? Curious?

Case in point:  this young girl using a jeweler’s loupe at Turquoise Trail Charter School in New Mexico, one of our national partnership schools. She uses the loupe to carefully observe a rock’s size, texture, color, and weight, recording her observations as a geologist would. She is asked to scrutinize even harder, following Georgia O’Keeffe’s call to look closely at the overlooked. Then she applies O’Keeffe’s principles of “selection, elimination, and emphasis” to synthesize her scientific drawings into an original abstract artwork.

Want to impress your friends with your education reform prowess? Talk about the power of “arts integration,” this mix of art and other curricula, to engage students and teachers. Need to back up the touchy-feely with facts? Browse through the President’s hot new report on the benefits of arts integration.

Suzanne Wright, Director of Education