In 1961, Kohn was one of the first artists invited to work at June Wayne’s newly-founded Tamarind Lithographic Workshop in Los Angeles. A major aim of this venture was to revive lithography through fostering collaboration between a master printer and an artist in an atmosphere in which both were encouraged to experiment in order to expand the technical and expressive power of the medium. Kohn completed an astonishing twenty-two print editions during his two-month summer residency at Tamarind, exploring a variety of technical ways to develop his concepts.
Three Generals, 1961 [Tamarind #359]
Spotted Beast, 1961 [Tamarind #344] Red Beast, 1961 [Tamarind #339]
The imagery that emerged from the Tamarind prints was immediately and significantly different from the works that Kohn had been producing prior to that time. The most compelling works from this period are huge, distorted, anonymous black-and-white figures, presented in isolation without environmental background or interference from secondary images. Taking advantage of the organic properties inherent in the medium, the artist intended these works to be frightening, in response to the unknown nuclear terrors and their disorienting effect on people’s daily lives. Gone was the black humor and satire of the military figures of the late 1950s; in their place was an inchoate fear of a formless foe. While evoking a disturbing view of the future of humanity without humans, these detached figures simultaneously evoked images of primeval man: a warning, perhaps, of the apocalypse that could reduce civilization back to a more primal savagery. Building up his forms with infinite textural variety and intricacy, Kohn compounded the strength of the image with the large scale of these prints.
Giant, 1961 [Tamarind #372]
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.