Friday, August 30, 2013


Bob Callahan’s “virtual” (computer generated) exhibit of paintings from Renee Kahn’s “Seven Deadly Sins” series at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City
The brilliant graphic designer Bob Callahan, loves to take my work and play around with the scale. You can’t imagine how important size is to a work of art until you start making it bigger or smaller. Think of Guernica reduced to “over the sofa” proportions. Not the same, is it?

Bob likes to take photos of my paintings and then, using the magic of PhotoShop, put them on the walls of museums throughout the world. He gets photos from their websites: i.e. the Louvre, the Jewish Museum, the Neue Gallery, removes the existing art and puts my work up instead. He even drops in a couple of visitors to show scale. Voila, I’m an international success! In the process, Bob will enlarge my work from room-size to gallery size to museum size, often covering entire walls with average-sized paintings blown up to gargantuan proportions. (see Blog #3)

My favorite Bob creation is a “virtual reality” installation he conceived for the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City. He “photo-shopped” my “Seven Deadly Sins” series - replete with SINS listed in neon lights – into the main exhibit space at the museum. By doubling their size. Bob created huge contemporary versions of Lust, Gluttony, Anger, Greed and Envy.
Now, all I need is to convince the museum to let me do it; a bit too raunchy for them.

Last Sunday’s New York Times had a photo of a painting by Red Grooms soon to be exhibited at the Yale Museum of Art. It’s a 27’ look inside the Cedar Tavern, center of the New York art scene in the 1960s showing all the major Abstract Expressionist painters of the time. I couldn’t help but think that if this painting were only five feet wide, you might not give it a second glance. 

There is a danger in the current art world, to mistake size for quality. Having just come from an exhibit of Rembrandt’s etchings at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, it’s definitely not size that matters. Three or four inches were all Rembrandt needed to create a masterpiece. On the other hand, I recently visited a trendy private museum in Greenwich where there wasn’t a single contemporary painting less than 20’ wide. If they had they been any smaller, you wouldn’t have given them a glance. In fact, their hugeness was the only thing that made them interesting. The focal point of the gallery was an 8’x20’ painted line drawing of DaVinci’s “Last Supper.” It looked as if it had been projected onto the canvas from a photo. I wonder if the owner was aware that he could have saved a lot of money by buying an overhead projector ($200), a role of large canvas ($150), a big brush ($20) and a can of black gesso ($10) - and doing it himself.

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