Jacob Kainen

September 16 – October 28, 2023

Washington, DC – HEMPHILL is pleased to announce the exhibition JACOB KAINEN, opening on Saturday, September 16, 2023, with a Fall Open House that day from 1-5 pm. The exhibition will remain on view through October 28, 2023. JACOB KAINEN presents paintings dating from 1951-1988, accompanied by a selection of works on paper 1950-1970. 

“However abstract the forms and colors seem, they should somehow give off an aura of human experience.” – Jacob Kainen

Born in 1909 in Waterbury, CT, Jacob Kainen studied at the Art Students League and worked in the WPA Graphic Arts program in the 1930s. His social realist work of the 1930s and 1940s reflected the turbulence of the Great Depression leading into the WWII era. Moving from New York to Washington in 1942, by the end of the decade he turned to organic abstraction and developed a spatial, gestural style of painting incorporating forms found in everyday life made ambiguous through abstraction. In each subsequent decade of his career, Kainen sought to refine and revisit these everyday forms.

The earliest paintings on view, from 1951 and 1953, are complemented by a suite of paintings on paper showing the clear and rapid development Kainen’s new form of abstraction. Mr. Kafka, 1970, takes its composition from a figment of clothing hanging in space, adding up to a representation of the figure. Kainen returned to the Mr. Kafka composition again and again, re-addressing the shapes in both sketch and etching formats.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, Kainen alternated between periods of lyrical abstraction and geometric abstraction, employing a practiced method of layering pigments, feathering the edges of his compositional elements so that they seem to float across the canvas. 

JACOB KAINEN is the 7th solo exhibition of the artist’s work presented by HEMPHILL  Artworks since 1997. Kainen was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1993, and his work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Yale University Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other public and private collections.

HEMPHILL celebrates its 30th Anniversary with the opening of the 2023 Fall Art Season. The gallery opened in September 1993 and has since presented over 250 solo and group exhibitions in gallery spaces throughout Washington DC, and since 2019, in Washington DC’s Mt Vernon Triangle location. The exhibition schedule features modern & contemporary art in all media by artists ranging from emerging to mid-career to modern masters.