Misch Kohn


Honorary Degree (1991)
Doctor of Fine Arts
Location: Kokomo
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


Misch Kohn was born in 1916 in Kokomo, Indiana and was one of seven children. He traveled to Mexico in the 1940's where he worked on murals with the great Mexican artists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco's. Kohn was awarded two Guggenheim fellowships that allowed him to travel to France where he printed in the same atelier with painters such as Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. His work is in the collections of many of this country's most distinguished institutions and his exhibition record includes The Whitney Museum Annual in 1966, the Venice Biennial in 1970, and a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1981. Misch Kohn died in 2003.

As well as having a distinguished career as an artist he was also an inspirational teacher of printmaking at numerous institutions of higher education including the renowned Atelier 17 in Paris, the University of Wisconsin, the Chicago Institute of Design, where he began the graphics program, and ultimately California State University at Hayward. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1991.

Kohn's earliest lithographs and wood engravings in the 1930s expressed his deepest connections and concerns with the sociopolitical climate of the time. Kohn's seminal work, Pursuit of Freedom, is a series of 16 small wood engravings illustrating a history of the civil liberties movement in Illinois. The project was published in 1942 and was sponsored by the W.PA. and financed by the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee. These social concerns continue as themes in his work throughout his life reflecting his interest in portraying the human condition. While many works reference specific historical facts such as the Vietnam War or mistreatment of blacks in the South, they transcend their period and become universal statements about the nature of war, cruelty and man's inhumanity toward man.

By the 1970s, when he moved to California to take a position as Professor of Art at the California State University at Hayward, he began fabricating his own paper. His many years of innovation and technical mastery allowed him the freedom to mix many media within a single composition. He is well known as a pioneer in his innovations with sugar-lift ground aquatint etching, chine colle and handmade embedded paper processes.

Kohn's legacy of a total of 730 prints are in the collections of over 100 of the world's most prestigious museums and galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris and the Smithsonian Institution. Misch Kohn received numerous awards including; two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Ford Foundation Grant, a Tamrind Institute Fellowship, a Visual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Indiana.