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Anyone who lives in the aftermath of unnatural suffering is incessantly aware of time’s passing, of the possibility of loss, of the abrupt reversal of safety. – Tobi Kahn
The child of Holocaust survivors, Tobi Kahn thinks deeply about the shape and meaning of commemorating loss. He describes himself as obsessed with memory, believing that art can be a redemptive, healing force. Kahn’s artwork is both spiritual and secular, with commissions that span Holocaust memorials to a hospice meditation room.
In conjunction with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Kahn created M’AHL, a sculpture comprised of 12 independent segments for an installation titled Embodied Light: 9/11 in 2011. Constructed of wood pieces leftover from sculptures Kahn had made during the intervening decade, M’AHL embodies the artist’s memories of time spent with his parents and grandparents at Windows on the World, the restaurant high atop the North Tower. M’AHL is an abstraction of the view from that once-storied place, reimagined after the collapse of the Twin Towers. Kahn last visited the World Trade Center with his son just weeks before 9/11. On the day of the attacks, he witnessed the destruction from the rooftop of his studio in Long Island City.
M’AHL is a 12-part floor sculpture comprised of thousands of wood remnants from works the artist had executed in his studio since September 11, 2001. The piece is meant to be viewed from an elevated perspective, suggesting the view from the North Tower’s Windows on the World restaurant.
A native New Yorker, Kahn grew up in a community of Jewish immigrants who, like his parents, had fled Europe during the Holocaust. Tobi Kahn’s artwork is both spiritual and secular. His work explores themes of mortality, memory, and healing. In paintings and in sculptures of wood, stone, and bronze, Kahn creates memorials and other meditative spaces for public and private settings, including hospitals, hospices, galleries, and museums.