San Francisco

Misch Kohn

Palace of the Legion of Honor

The Achenbach Foundation at the Legion of Honor is justly proud to exhibit Misch Kohn. Among modern printmakers no name is as eminent. It has even been said that he is one of the few contemporaries whose work approaches Rembrandt and Goya. But in the Rembrandt and Goya prints the eye is taken through a sublime series of tonal values while Kohn is limited to three: white, medium gray and jet black. The masters display drafting hands of perfect discipline—each line is purposeful and intended, while in Kohn’s Tiger, Sleeping Soldier and Bull Fight the principal reliance is on the wood grain, on accident, on uncontrolled factors. And Kohn’s Mountain Climber, a subject of great depth, is absolutely flat in comparison with Rembrandt’s and Goya’s masterly rendition of deep space. But above all, the master printmakers had a great deal to say about the human condition—for printmaking is, after all, a propagandistic art. In our time, with its disasters and wars, Kohn produces John Brown. It is reasonably safe after a century to extoll John Brown. Contemporary Mexicans have not feared to be angry in a country where political dissent is punished with greater severity than here. Perhaps this anger is necessary to the excitement and validity of great prints.

Robert Olmsted