Visit Misha Kahn’s artist studio Sunset Park

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Micha Kahn.
Photo: Wendy Goodman

Micha KahnThe Sunset Park studio sits next to a large network of transformers in a still heavily industrial squat area of ​​the town it moved to two years ago from Bushwick. A broker “showed me a bunch of cool spaces and then said he’d show me some kind of curve ball, but it was really cheap,” he says. There’s no AT&T mobile service inside, so I had to knock hard to get his attention and let me in.

Kahn has spent much of the pandemic “at his house in Minnesota, on my parents’ bridge, losing his mind,” he says. So rehabilitating the new space was something to throw yourself into. He opened bricked-up windows, repaired broken doors and took out 20,000 pounds of trash. “I think something nefarious happened here,” he said, laughing at the dire state he was in. But he also took the time to experiment with new technologies that were helpful in both designing and executing his ideas.

Kahn graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011 and was featured in the Museum of Arts and Design biennial in 2014. The following year he collaborated with Gone Rural, a group of women weavers and based in Eswatini, for a show. , “Scrappy”. His 2017 exhibition at Friedman Benda“Midden Heap”, was a spooky voyage of design objects, incorporating detritus washed up on the shores of Rockaway beaches – including, in one memorable case, a toilet seat washed up by the sea.

Currently, his works include glass tondi: circular sculptures he calls “portals”. It also works a lot with clay and has very extravagant and comfortable padded parts.

Kahn introduced me to his “clay tile madness,” starting with a table covered in fired clay tiles that will be the skin of one of the ceramic pieces in the show. The grout connecting the pieces is a key feature: “It allows us to put the tiles together in segments and then join them, and it’s very forgiving; if one tile doesn’t work, you can cut out the grout line and find something else.

In one corner is a mirror frame that Kahn says is ceramic and chrome, “another indulgent ceramic process; the chrome is like a silver nitrate finish that we do next, so you can put things together and you can’t tell. So it doesn’t have to be in one piece.

“This thing here is really psycho; it’s ongoing,” Kahn says. He looks like a huge sea monster that crawled out of the harbor and took refuge in the studio. He created the shape in VR, then the robot sculpted it, then they draped it in clay. “So in the end, I think, it will read like a mosaic when we’re done sealing it all up.” What will it be used for? “Although I’m into the dark arts of non-functional things, this one is going to be a chest of drawers, so there are drawers in it. But I think when it’s done, you won’t be able to see where the drawers are.

The assistant robot.

Photographs of Wendy Bonhomme

Kahn’s work is no longer completely handmade – at least by human hands. I encountered a giant dinosaur-like assistant robot that had its own room, surrounded by mounds of fine, sand-colored sawdust shavings. “It’s the #1 robot,” he says of the machine ready for action. “I have a second one who works around the clock in German painting. It’s a bit like the sculpture room.

The machine accelerated the execution of Kahn’s designs. “It made the process very smooth,” he says. “I can draw something and then he carves it.”

This process lays the foundation for the bigger pieces. “I created the shape digitally,” he says, and the robot milled it, “but there’s obviously the ceramic process done with the fingers.” The human touch is always essential.

The robot was acquired from a “used robot conglomerate” and, according to Kahn, could have been used in something like a car factory. “We’re reprogramming it to do a lot of stuff, which has been like a crazy new adventure,” he says. “I feel like the studio is now half and half – some people are really IT, and some people are really tactile, and I think that’s a good mix.”

We then move into a room with a sunken dining and work area, with a large window overlooking the transformer maze.

“It’s wild when it rains because you hear all the transformers whistling and banging. But I had a little luck with the plants,” he says of the free-form wisteria entwined in the chain-link fence surrounding the transformers. He then set to work unpacking two upholstered pieces that had just been delivered that day: a large sofa and a chair.

“Upholstery has definitely gotten more complex,” he says as he unwraps the plastic cellophane from the pieces. He works with two upholsterers, one of whom he has been a partner with for years. “It’s run by a guy from Oaxaca,” he said. “It’s all hand sewing, and draping and sewing is, I think, an activity of patience and skill.”

It took a month to make the frame and the foam for the large sofa before it was sent to the upholsterers.

Photographs of Wendy Bonhomme

Kahn manufactures another version of the sofa in Italy. “It’s a tour de force,” he said. “It’s kind of the opposite of that. This one is so practical, and the one in Italy is done entirely on a computer… Everything fits together without any hardware.

He then covers the rooms telling me that they discovered that a possum likes to come at night for a comfortable place to lie down. “We had a studio couch here,” he told me, “and [the possum] always came home and slept in the same place; you could see the dent he made. How did he know it was a possum? “We saw it on the security camera!” he said laughing.

As we head up the stairs to the second floor, you can hear the mechanical hum and rattle of machines talking to each other – and, of course, once up there are 15 3D printers spinning in a language of own them. “They’re busy making parts for chair legs,” Kahn explains. “You need talented people and talented machines.”

Beyond this room is Kahn’s office with his bulletin board and treasure trove of objects as well as drawings and samples of the 24 new pieces he is making for Art Basel, which opens June 14. The exhibition at Friedman Benda opens on June 2. time,” he says with a big smile. “And then I start planting seeds again.”
Photo: Wendy Goodman

Kahn’s office.
Photo: Wendy Goodman

“Style Without Substance” is playing at Friedman Benda from June 2 to July 1.

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