Friday, February 27, 2015

Upcoming Artist Gallery Talk at Edward Hopper House March 6, 7 P.M.






Philip Koch,  Monhegan Dawn: Ochre, oil on panel 
6 1/2 x 13", 2015

On Friday, March 6 I'm giving a gallery talk in Nyack, NY about the work in the Edward Hopper House Art Center's current exhibition Philip Koch: Landscapes and Hopper Interiors. Naturally I've been mulling over what I want to say. The talk's at 7:00 and is free to the public. 

The show is taking place in the house where Hopper was born and grew up. It's situated on a rise one block above the open sweep of the Hudson River, something that played a huge role in his youthful imagination. Years later he would build a studio for himself atop an 80' sand dune overlooking the waters of Cape Cod Bay in Truro, MA. And if one visits that studio that Hopper himself designed down to the last nail, one can't help but be struck by how similar it is in feeling to his Nyack home. That's no accident.

Philip Koch, Sun in an Empty Room, vine charcoal,
9 x 12", 2012

Hopper put enormous stock in the most vivid of his childhood memories- images so strongly etched into his mind that they weren't eroded away by the passing decades. Chief among them was his delight at seeing sunlight streaming through his bedroom windows and playing its patterns across the walls and planks of its floor. 

From the home itself, to the rooftops of the houses running down to the Hudson River, one finds all the essential elements that would appear and re-appear in Hopper's paintings. 


Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Truro Studio Kitchen II
oil on panel, 10 x 7 1/2", 2014




Philip Koch, Yellow Arcadia, oil on panel, 
30 x 40, 2006

I grew up in a home my parents built on a hill overlooking the shore of Lake Ontario, just outside of Rochester, NY. Then the area was mostly unsettled and I would play with the handful of other children there along the shore and on its the densely forested hills. 
As a teenager I longed to grow up and leave the area, and once I turned 18 I went off to college and never lived there again. 

But a funny thing happened. I started dreaming about the old neighborhood's rocky shore and the crazy patterns of sunlight filtering through the forest's canopy. These images came unbidden, marching back into my consciousness. And they gradually came to feel like old friends returning. For a few years I struggled with the disconnect between the art I was making and the these old images that were populating my mind. Finally I realized I should put them to use.




Philip Koch, Deer Isle, oil on panel, 36 x 72", 2009

One of the oils that most closely resembles what the shore by my childhood home looked like is this painting above, Deer Isle, which was painted in Maine. That's probably why I made it.

Artists, when they've done powerful work, are teaching us lessons. 

One of them surely is to slow down and take a second look at ones immediate surroundings. Much of what is around you at any given moment is forgettable.  But alongside of those are a few fragments that mysteriously insert themselves into your memory. You find yourself carrying with you the feeling of the corner of your old bedroom or the way the shadows moved in late afternoons across your backyard. This is a good thing. This is some extra new vocabulary you will use for the rest of your life to describe yourself to yourself. 





Friday, February 20, 2015

Opening Reception: Edward Hopper House Art Center




Here's a selection of photos from the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY of their opening reception for their new feature exhibition Philip Koch: Landscapes and Hopper Interiors that was held Saturday, Feb. 22. 

Carole Perry, the Executive Artistic Director of the Art Center did a tremendous job hanging the show and sensitively lighting the works. Honestly I think this is one of my all time favorites of solo exhibitions I have had over the years. The work will be on display through April 12, 2015.














Philip Koch in front of his oil The Voyage of Memory, with the oils 
White Thicket in the middle Yellow Arcadia at the right.





Deer Isle, oil on panel, 36 x 72" at right.




Above the mantel: The Voyage of Memory, oil on canvas, 38 x 38"





Some of the smaller works in the Hallway Gallery of the Art Center. Upper left: Sun in an Empty Rood: Blue, oil on panel 12 x 16", top middle: Sun in an Empty Room II, vine charcoal, 7 x 14" and Below middle: Sun in an Empty Room III, vine    charcoal, 9 x 12" (which I drew in the room directly upstairs that as Edward Hopper's bedroom).










Illuminated sign in front of the Edward Hopper House Art Center





In the far gallery, Road to the Shore, oil on canvas, 42 x 28"






Philip Koch between the oils Yellow Arcadia and The Reach IV





Left: White Thicket, oil on linen 28 x 42", Right: Edward 
Hopper's Parlor, Nyack, oil on linen, 32 x 24"




Top: Monhegan Dawn: Ochre oil on panel, 6 1/2 x 13"
Bottom: White Mountains: Warm Sky, oil on panel, 9 x 12"






Philip Koch with his oil The Voyage of Memory, 38 x 38"






Philip's wife Alice with Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea II,
oil on panel 18 x 27 and at right Deer Isle, oil on panel, 36 x 72"




At left part of Edward Hopper's Parlor, Nyack, which was painted 
in the same room in Hopper's house where it is now hanging, 
and in the far gallery, Road to the Shore, oil on canvas, 42 x 28.











I will post an additional group of photos from the exhibition shortly in a new blog post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Exhibition at Edward Hopper House Art Center



I am just back from Nyack, NY where I was on hand for the installation of the Edward Hopper House Art Center's upcoming feature exhibition Philip Koch: Landscapes and Hopper Interiors.
The show will officially open with a reception on Saturday, Feb. 14 from 5-7p.m. Please come and say hello!

Here is a photo of the installation in progress in the Hopper House's main galleries. I am pressed for time now so I won't be writing a usual blog post, but I did want to show a quick selection of some of the works to be displayed.




Here is the freshly shoveled front walk to Edward Hopper House Art Center- no doubt young Edward Hopper shoveled it clear more than a few times in his day.






White Thicket, oil on linen, 28 x 42"




Edward Hopper's Parlor, Nyack, oil on linen,
32 x 24", 2015




Deer Isle,  oil on panel, 36 x 72", 2008




Truro Studio Kitchen, pastel, 6 x 8", 2010



Edward Hopper's Truro Studio Kitchen II, oil on panel
10 x 7 1/2"



Hopper's Beach, Looking North, vine charcoal, 9 x 12", 2007
This is the view from the beach on Cape Cod Bay directly
below Hopper's Truro, MA studio.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Conversations with Alfred Bricher and John Constable


                               Alfred Bricher, Sea and Rocks Near Newport, Indiana University Art Museum


I was wandering through images of paintings and stumbled across two old and dear friends- the two paintings by other artists that first inspired me to make copies in oil.

Back in 1970 I entered the MFA Program in Painting at Indiana University with no idea what kind of art I wanted to make. My paintings often were going several different directions at once,  starting with straight observation, bouncing into expressionism and hitting a few surreal notes. But I had the good fortune to almost immediately fall in love with the large exhibition of 19th century landscape paintings the IU Art Museum had staged. 

One of the artists in the show was Alfred Bricher (Am. 1837 - 1908). I was allowed to set up my paints and make a copy directly from his original painting above. Making copies was something I had read about that used to be part of every artist's training, but it was new to me. I found the process was like falling into a long conversation with the artist, with him gently pointing the way as I examined his thinking. 

Copying a painting in oil is slow going but it allowed me time to fall into his world on a deeper level than I'd anticipated. For example his large hillside of rocks at the left proved far more simple and geometric than I'd first realized.




John Constable, A Cottage in a Corn Field

About the same time I bought a little paperback of John Constable (British, 1776 -1837) landscapes from the campus bookstore. My favorite plate was the oil above. Back in my student apartment at night I worked up a careful oil copy of it as well. 

What I love about this Constable is the way he created such a flowing movement from the far distant curving clouds to the cottage roof and surrounding field, and finally into the distinctly differently colored foreground. I remember specifically how making this copy got me thinking about layering my pigments, building up complexly rich forms like the trunk and branches lying on top of the expanse of "foliage" color the artist had applied first. 




Philip Koch, Fall at Lake Lemon, oil on canvas, 1971 

My painting above was done on location right after I made these two copies. And I remember thinking at the time how I could feel my way of seeing had started to change from listening so closely to what those two old painters had to say.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Catalogue Essay for Upcoming Exhibition at Edward Hopper House



Carole Perry, the Executive Artistic Director of Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY wrote the following essay for the exhibition catalogue for their upcoming show Philip Koch: Landscapes and Hopper Interiors. The exhibition runs Feb. 14 - April 12, 2015. There will be an opening reception Saturday, Feb. 14 from 5 - 7. All invited!


As an art student in the late1960s, Philip Koch (b. 1948) found inspiration in the geometric and color field abstractions of artists such as Josef Albers, Frank Stella, and Mark Rothko.  Koch created abstract paintings until, he says, “[Edward] Hopper came along and tapped me on the shoulder.”  With the ghost of Hopper as his guide, Koch turned his attention to the landscape and began to paint from nature in a realist style.

What he learned from Hopper, Koch says, “was to be relentless in pursuit of just the right idea to make a painting… Don't settle for anything less than extraordinary his work said to me."   Like Hopper, Koch starts a composition by sketching his scene on site.  He uses vine charcoal (a medium he is drawn to for its ability to render the nuances of light and shadow) to record his initial impressions, and then engages his imagination and memory to execute the final painting in the studio.


Since 1983, Koch has had 15 residencies in Hopper’s home and studio in Truro, MA on Cape Cod.  He has also painted in Hopper’s bedroom at the Edward Hopper House.  Spending time in the spaces inhabited by Hopper, seeing the same views and experiencing the play of light and shadow in the rooms and on the surrounding houses has provided Koch with a unique understanding of Hopper’s work and process.  Koch has used that understanding as a guide as he forged his own artistic identity. 

Edward Hopper once said that it took him 10 years to “get over” the influence of his teacher, Robert Henri.  Likewise, it took Koch some years to get past Hopper’s powerful hold on him.  It is not style, subject matter or technique that makes an artist unique, but how much of himself he puts into his work.  For the past 20 years or so, Koch has succeeded in putting himself into his paintings and telling his own story.  His modernist roots commingle with his appreciation for the 19th century landscape painters and their celebration of the natural world.  Koch’s paintings embrace that world, while continuing to discover the expressive qualities of color and light.

 

Koch, who works as a Professor of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, makes regular sojourns to upstate New York and New England, following in the footsteps and painting the same views as the likes of Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, and the Hudson River School artists he so admires.  "Each generation" says Koch "needs a new image of what our earth looks like in our time. There will always be a need for landscape painters to show us where we live."  Koch shows us where we live, according to him.


Carole Perry, Executive Artistic Director, Edward Hopper House Art Center

Friday, January 9, 2015

Yellow Arcadia



      Philip Koch, Yellow Arcadia, oil on panel, 30 x 40", 2006

I've changed. 

Early on I painted the landscape by directly observing a specific place. With my paints and portable easel in tow, I'd head out seaching for sources that called out to me.  My paintings were reports on how an actual location looked and felt at a specific time.  I'm very proud of the work I did then. 

In the last decade and a half I've come to see landscape painting as a means to evoke more a state of mind than a particular location. Memory and imagination loom larger as sources as I paint.

My painting Yellow Arcadia is a good example. It's a favorite of mine and will be included in the upcoming exhibition Philip Koch: Landscapes and Hopper Interiors at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY Feb. 14 - April 12, 2015. 

In our imagination the word Arcadia has come to represent an idyllic and unspoiled wilderness. Alternately it's seen as a place where humans live in complete harmony with nature. Nature ultimately is the wellspring of all creativity. It is where we came from. I believe it's critical that we reflect anew on its importance.

I'm far from the first to chew on this bone. From 1833-1836 Thomas Cole, the father of American landscape painting, created his series of canvases The Course of Empire.  The second canvas in the series, The Arcadian State, demonstrates this view. 







Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why I Don't Use Photographs When I Paint

Went to an exhibition of paintings by a prominent realist painter who is known as one of the first committed photorealists, painters who consciously attempted to capture the look and feel of a color photograph in their work. The work had been executed with extreme care and was impressive for the amount of detail each canvas catalogued. 

But if pressed, I would admit my most favorite works would be from other painters from the museum's permanent collection.
The art I like best is about feeling and mood. They are highly interpretive.  And they're always surprising, you don't know ahead of time what the artist is going to focus on and what they're going to leave out.




Charles Burchfield, The Mysterious Bird, watercolor,
Delaware Art Museum

Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield are two of my favorite artists, as long time readers of this blog know.  Neither of them used photographs as sources for their work, preferring instead the dictates of their own eyes, memory, and emotions. As different as they are from each other in style, each engaged in an inner dialogue as they painted. 

In the Burchfield above notice how the artist reserves almost all his darkest darks for moodier top half of the painting compared to the lighter and warmer foreground road. He makes a shift in feeling from the close space to the distance. As we travel through his painting we feel our mood change.

Below is the first painting I ever paid attention to when I was a teenager, Edward Hopper's fantasy about his painting studio on Cape Cod. At first glance a tableau of empty spaces, Hopper invests  each surface with gradations of colors that weren't really there but that breathe life into each section of the painting. And I know from my residencies in the Hopper studio how extensively Hopper lied about the actual architecture of this corner of his painting room.





Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, 
Yale University Art Gallery

Hopper and Burchfield looked out at their world but also turned their gaze inward upon themselves. Their resulting paintings look like nobody else yet speak to so many of us. 

In my own studio, while my style is different than either of these two masters, I borrow from their way of selecting, interpreting
and  inventing. I think this is the road that leads to an art that genuinely reflects how living feels to us in our time.