Kohn continued to make art until he could physically do so no longer. Until the end, his work was always changing, and he was always exploring new ways to express his aesthetic concepts. Although continuing to focus on abstraction, he periodically returned to figurative and referential images, keeping his hand skilled in the painstaking work of wood engraving, or lyrically delineating the portrait of a friend with sugar-lift ground aquatint. As he explained, he was always trying to “find out something” from his work, so he never stopped innovating, and he never considered his earlier printmaking success as a plateau from which he need not seek to ascend.
Photo: Chris Chenard, courtesy California State University-Hayward
His path over his six decades of work was broad and diverse, as he moved from black-and-white to color, from studies of individual and collective angst to explorations of light and form, each time embracing and exploring the range of printmaking media and technique. The conceptual brilliance of Kohn’s mature work paralleled the physical layering of the transparencies in his “all media” prints, as it provided structure and education while illuminating viewers with expressivity, creativity, and harmony. Bold yet sensitive, aggressive yet intricate, the work reveals strength, grace, and that rare freedom that an artist achieves when image and technique, vision and process, have successfully been merged.
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.