Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick were each born in 1964—in New York City and London, respectively—and graduated from Washington University with their BFAs in 1986. They met during their senior years of high school while visiting the University as finalists for the Fred Conway Art Scholarship, and discovered they shared similar tastes in music, film, and art. During college they undertook quite similar projects, which centered around world building and photography, and assisted each other with costume making, set construction, and lighting, as well as appearing in each other’s images and sharing research materials.
A couple of years after graduation, they relocated to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to start formally working on collaborative projects under the moniker Kahn & Selesnick. Initially, the artists worked on projects centered around false histories and faux museology, creating paintings and sculpture that were frequently exhibited with deadpan didactic panels and supporting ephemera. As these projects developed, they became increasingly centered around photography and explorations into the so-called truth of the photographic image, allowing the artists to provide ever-increasing documentary evidence for their alternative histories. Appropriating the look of vintage photographs allowed the artists to use alternative pasts to explore contemporary anxieties, while also allowing them to engage their love of costumes, props, and artistic time-travel. During this period, the artists started using panoramas to explore the other major theme of their work, the mutability of the landscape.
Some highlights of their 35-year career include: working with Toni Morrison’s Atelier at Princeton University to build a trip to the moon; a commission from NASA to envision the exploration of Mars; and receiving the Green Leaf Award for ecologically themed art at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. In addition, Kahn & Selesnick have participated in over 100 museum and gallery exhibitions around the world, and have attended residencies and lectured at over 50 of the country’s most prestigious institutions. They have had six monographs of their work published and are the recipients of numerous awards, including grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Fine Arts Work Center on Cape Cod. Kahn currently resides in Morlaix, France, and Selesnick in Kingston, New York.