Frederick Kann: Creative Spirit, Visionary Mind will be on view at Meredith Ward Fine Art from November 2 through December 22, 2007. The show will feature 10 oils and 4 works on paper dating from 1930 to 1944 by this little-known yet enormously influential American artist. For more than four decades, Kann’s works of the 1930s and 1940s were thought to have been lost. This will be the first one-man exhibition of Kann’s early paintings since their rediscovery.
“It was incredibly exciting to learn of the existence of these paintings,” says Meredith Ward, President of the Gallery. “Kann was involved with many of the major avant-garde art movements in New York and Paris between the Wars, but because his early works had been lost, it was impossible to determine exactly what his contribution had been. With this exhibition, we can begin to connect the dots.”
Kann’s association with the Surindépendants and Abstraction-Création in Paris, and the American Abstract Artists group in New York solidified his credentials as a key figure in the development of modernism on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. His name appeared alongside some of the most important modern masters of the 20th century, yet the exact character of his work remained unknown until very recently.
Kann’s paintings reflect the international impulse toward abstraction during the 1920s and 1930s. His emphasis was not only on the formal elements of color, form, and line, but how they could be used to convey spiritual, mystical, scientific, and cosmological ideas. In 1938 Kann wrote, “Nature is not only the sensual perception of distance, but the intelligent penetration of its interior working process.”
In Paris, Kann became a part of a vital artistic community that included artists Joseph Albers, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Arshile Gorky, Jean Hélion, Joan Mirò, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, and Francis Picabia, and the writer Henry Miller, with whom Kann shared an apartment. Miller admired Kann’s work and revealed his thorough understanding of it when he wrote: “There is a great deal of mystification in Kann’s abstract paintings, a curious blending of the mathematical and the introspective.”
Frederick Kann (1884-1965) was born in Gablonz, Czechsolovakia, and studied painting, sculpture, and architecture at the Technical College in Prague and in Munich. In 1910, he came to the United States and became a naturalized citizen. In 1928, Kann returned to Paris where he taught art and exhibited with several avant-garde groups that were dedicated to furthering abstraction. He returned to America in 1936 to teach at the Kansas City Art Institute, and continued to promote the cause of abstraction through the Abstract American Artists group, of which he was a founding member. In 1944, Kann moved to Los Angeles, where he opened the Frederick Kann-Frank Martin Gallery (later the Circle Gallery), one of the first galleries in that city to exhibit abstract art.
A fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Susan Larsen, will accompany the exhibition.