Miriam Cahn

By Dziewior, Yilmaz | Artforum International, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview
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Miriam Cahn


Dziewior, Yilmaz, Artforum International


Miriam Cahn's works on paper, in which she uses either charcoal or colored chalk, often seem to have been made in great haste. Her fleeting gestures suggest an effort to give form to thoughts and emotions in as direct a manner as possible, and the almost unbearable urgency of the images that appear point to a restless, doubt-ridden artistic practice.

The large works in charcoal generally involve Cahn's whole body. Only by kneeling on the sheets of drawing paper can the entire surface be worked; as a result, she leave traces of her hands, arms, and legs. Cahn's process has been compared to Pollock's drip technique, but it also calls to mind the recent paintings Janine Antoni has made using her long hair as a brush. The work of all three artists suggests a certain willed bodily exertion, exertion to the point of exhaustion.

The most striking aspect of Cahn's art-making, however, is her attempt to sensitize the viewer to issues that include violence, the ravaging of the environment, and equality between the sexes, themes also reflected in her political activities - for example, her participation in the World Peace Congress as a delegate of the women's movement. In addition to engaging in specific social and political debates, Cahn delves into more universal themes, causing the images she creates to function rather abstractly, so that at first one often overlooks any illustrative or anecdotal subject matter. In all the works, however, one senses a world that is out of joint.

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