‘Barns and Quilts: A Rural Tradition’
The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum will debut its new major seasonal exhibition, “Barns and Quilts: A Rural Tradition,” this week, with an opening reception on Friday, May 16.
The reception will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
“Barns and Quilts: A Rural Tradition” explores two aspects of the material culture of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Both barns and quilts are representative of the landscape of our rural region and can be at once functional and beautiful. The exhibit examines quilts in a conventional way, with a selection of more than 20 regional quilts, ranging from Civil War-era antiques to modern-day creations.
Barns, however, are explored less traditionally — through the oils and pastels of painter Wolf Kahn, whose Color Field barns explore the interplay between barns and their environments.
Kahn was born in Germany in 1927, the son of the director of the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra. His family was forced to immigrate to the United States during the 1930s, and the young Kahn was sent to England in 1939 via the Kindertransport. In 1940, he was able to join his family in America, where he attended New York City’s High School of Music and Art and became a student of abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann. Later, he received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Chicago. Kahn married fellow painter Emily Mason in 1957, and they currently divide their time between rural Vermont and New York City.
Kahn works in both oils and pastels, and his art combines aspects of Realism and Color Field painting, an artistic movement that emerged during the middle of the 20th century. Color Field painters treat the canvas as a flat plane onto which large swaths of color are painted, sometimes without a subject and sometimes blurring the distinction between a subject and its background. This can be seen in many of Kahn’s landscapes, as well as some of his barn paintings featured in the exhibition, such as “Wet June” and “Purple Broadside.”
Kahn began painting barns in 1966 and has created a body of artwork centered on the form of the barn. According to the artist, he is drawn to the way barns interact with their environments. He pays close attention to the way their colors and textures relate to those of the surrounding landscape. He also observes closely the relationship between the landscape and the barn’s size, position and function. Kahn’s barns tend to be simple in form rather than highly realistic.
The greatest number of Kahn paintings in the exhibition are on loan from the private collection of Mary and Jerald Melberg and the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte. The two men have been friends for decades, and Melberg has represented Kahn’s art since the early 1980s. Melberg, former curator of the Mint Museum, introduced Kahn to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in 1981 by taking him to visit the historic restaurant and springs in Shatley Springs. Kahn later created a pastel of the restaurant, “Dining Hall, Shatley Springs, North Carolina” (2002).
“Barns and Quilts” will be on display at BRAHM through Sept. 27 and is underwritten by the James and Beverly Cook family. BRAHM is located at 159 Chestnut St. in downtown Blowing Rock. For more information, call (828) 295-9099, or visit http://www.blowingrockmuseum.org.