Three of the new works included in Andre Kohn’s new solo exhibition at Shaw Gallery in Naples are dance scenes that capture the sensual movement, sultry expression and sexy flair of Latin dance.
Latin dance has been popular in the U.S. for some time, but has captured the imagination of millions with the advent of shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. The former is based on the British TV series Strictly Come Dancing, which has licensed its format in a staggering 32 countries from Argentina to the Ukraine. According to Television Business International, the celebrity dance contest was the most popular television program in the world throughout 2006 and 2007, and the U.S. version has seen a parade of top stars as contestants and musical performers.
Latin dance night always tops the Nielsen ratings, and Kohn’s figurative dancers tap into the angst and passion of salsa, rumba and especially the tango.
In Sync, a small charcoal on paper, is particularly saucy. By bending the male’s head forward and slightly to his right and positioning his left hand, fingers splayed, on his hip, Kohn suggests the antipathy if not outright hostility characteristically portrayed in classic Argentine tango. By contrast, the woman straddles her partner’s thigh, presses a gloved hand against his chest and throws her head back in submission as she yields to his domination … on the dance floor if nowhere else.
Like the masters of the dance, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Kohn knows the importance of line. But where there’s no story in Degas’ dispassionate pictures, In Sync is replete with sexual tension, smoldering sensuality and raw animal magnetism.
Noches de Buenos Aires, an even smaller charcoal on paper, is of the same ilk. But here, Kohn pictures the dancers staring into each other’s eyes as she executes a gancho, hooking her heel around his working leg. Kohn’s use of shadow leaves us to wonder if the male dancer is looking at his partner with desire, or disgust.
Rooftop Tango is the only oil in the group. (Another oil, Al Compas del Corazon or To The Beat of the Heart just sold.) It’s cool, chic and ultra-sophisticated, as are most of Kohn’s figures. But this painting showcases Kohn’s unrepeatable pallet, expressive brushwork and deft use of impasto.
The only shame is that there aren’t more dancers in the show.