Don Ahn was born in Seoul, Korea and moved to New York after graduating from Seoul University (BFA). Ahn attended Miami University (Graduate course), Pratt Institute (MFA) and New York University (Ph. D, Art History). Ahn’s work is greatly influenced by nature, specifically the cycles of nature and other Eastern philosophies. Ahn’s ink and acrylic paintings on canvas are reminiscent of Eastern Calligraphy and paintings, with their quick brushstrokes and elegant compositions. Ahn paints natural forms and environments, which he abstracts into brushstrokes, drips, and splatters and these works blend Eastern brush painting with Abstract Expressionist “action painting.” Another influence or concept in Ahn’s work is the dragon, a good and powerful figure from Korean and Chinese mythology, whose movements and forms Ahn suggests in whimsical ribbon-like marks and trails of paint.
Art historian and Senior Curator at Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, Jeffrey Wechsler remarks at “how completely even the most explosive of (the marks) ultimately resolve within the paintings as compositional pivots and focal points of visual weight, but without reducing their sense of unbound energy” which he calls a “zen-like paradox.” He writes, “Somehow, speed becomes his medium for suggesting presence and substance.”
Ahn has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, including exhibitions at Art in Embassies Program for Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard in Seoul, Korea; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan; Chicago Institute of Art, Chicago, IL; Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Walter Wickiser Gallery, New York, NY. His works are included in private and public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Dayton Art Museum, Ohio; and the Evansville Museum, Indiana. Award and honors include First Prize for paintings from the Dayton Art Museum Ohio Regional Art Annual in 1963, the Pratt Graduate Fellowship in 1963, First Prize from East Coast Printmaker’s Annual in 1964, and the McDowell Artist Fellowship in 1964.