“I started exploring abstract work in the early nineties during undergraduate studies, where I was introduced to various art movements of Western art history including the tenets of modernism. Modernist practices, which set aside artistic traditions of the past in favor of experimentation, piqued my interest at the time. Although the age of modern painting began in the nineteenth century I was particularly drawn to work produced in the latter half of the twentieth century, particularly Color Field painting, Geometric Abstraction and the work of the New York School. My affinity with modern and contemporary art practices consumed me even through graduate studies and continues to this day. Importantly, Indigenous art history (pre-modern art) is another component crucial to my research of non-objective art, which includes recognizing parallels and similarities between Indigenous abstraction and the modern art aesthetic,” says Jeff Kahm (Kahmakoatayo) (b. 1968). He was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, of Plains Cree and French/Irish descent. Kahm attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1990 to study painting and photography and soon after was awarded a painting scholarship to attend the Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1994. He then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alberta in 1997. In 2002, Kahm moved to New Mexico, a land that he has grown to love and where he now calls home. He became a permanent resident in 2003 and soon began teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, as a visiting faculty member. Today he is an associate professor at IAIA where he teaches intermediate and advanced studio art courses. Kahm’s landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe; Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, highlighted his most recent work—a striking series of small works on paper and panels and an impressive collection of large scale paintings on canvas—work he describes as “rooted in Indigenous abstraction and Modernist aesthetics.” His work continues to reach a wider audience through invitational and group shows nationally and internationally.
Headshot photography courtesy of Jeff Kahm