Performa, Wyatt Kahn

Wyatt Kahn.

Wyatt Kahn makes a somewhat surprising appearance on the Performa lineup. The artist has become known for his elegant, puzzle-like works, in which individual blocks, wedges, and slivers of raw canvas come together in a sort of relief, blurring the line between painting and sculpture. If there is any action to speak of, it’s happening behind the scenes, in the artist’s Bushwick, Brooklyn, studio. Which is where Kahn takes us, in an autobiographical puppet show he will stage at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, in Central Park. Kahn plays a version of himself—though with a strikingly smaller physique and a relatively inflated head—as he completes a new work for an upcoming art fair. Whenever Kahn exits the room, the paintings in his studio become animated, talking behind his back (“Does he still have that cat poster up?”) and engaging in the dialogue between component parts and overall form that is at the crux of his output (“He was messing with the arrangement a lot. Do you think that means something?”). All of the artist’s anxieties are projected onto a work in progress, the individual elements of which appear to be experiencing a crisis of existential proportions. In this photograph for W, Kahn auditions four actors for the part of Amigo, an already finished artwork whose perfection he is struggling to transcend. “He seemed stretched pretty thin,” one of the puppets observes of the artist. Being a canvas, he would know.