Explore the graphic work of one of the most significant master printmakers of the modern era. Misch Kohn, hailed as a pioneer for “breaking the shackles of conventionality,” is widely celebrated for his role in reinvigorating the field of printmaking in postwar America. A review of his work, in and of itself, may serve as a short course in post-World War II printmaking.
Born in 1916 in Kokomo, Indiana to poor Russian-Jewish immigrants Jacob and Anna Kohn, Misch Kohn began his professional life on the federally-funded Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). After a year in Mexico, where he met and worked with such local luminaries as José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera, he moved to Chicago and went on to international acclaim as a result of the continuing technical breakthroughs he achieved with each printmaking medium he investigated. Pushing the limits of each technique to make it conform to his conceptual explorations, over the years he moved from black-and-white interpretations of social and political issues to “all-media” celebrations of color, form, and light. Organizer and director of the Graphic Workshop at Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s “New Bauhaus” Institute of Design in Chicago for twenty-two years, Kohn – who died in 2003 after having spent his last three decades living, teaching, and working in the San Francisco Bay Area – continued to be honored with numerous awards and international exhibitions for the rest of his days.
Note: This text is excerpted from the comprehensive book Misch Kohn: Beyond the Tradition by Jo Farb Hernández (Monterey Museum of Art and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997), which includes a full catalogue raisonné of the prints as well as an exhibition history, chronology, list of works in public collections, prize list, and bibliography.