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Showing posts from July, 2011

A Dedication to Edward Hopper

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I talk about Edward Hopper's work a lot. Partly because I think he's a very exciting painter. Partly because I believe he wasn't the most skillful of painters but found ingenious ways to work around his short comings. And also because he was able to endure twenty years of relative obscurity as a painter while supporting himself as an illustrator (his career is the opposite of a "boy-wonder"). But the primary reason is how his hand changed my life direction so completely.
Early on I'd decided to become a painter when I was in my freshman year at Oberlin College. I spent two years going with the flow of what was being taught in the school's art department- a grab bag of conceptual art, performance, and lots if interest in building irregularly shaped canvases and painting with acrylic paint and masking tape (neatly separated areas of paint  were considered critical). It wasn't terrible and I did learn much about color mixing, proportion, and becoming sens…

Unbroken Thread Show at Peninsula Fine Arts Center #2

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Here's the opening reception last Friday in Newport News, Virginia at Peninsula Fine Arts Center's Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch exhibition. The whirling blur in the photo above is Michael Preble, Curator of PFAC, introducing the exhibit to the guests. Perhaps it's appropriate that Michael is seen in motion- he'd just completed overseeing the hanging of both my show and the excellent companion show of works on paper by Virginia landscape artists. That's 100 some works, wall labels, text panels, storing of the shipping materials, etc, 
I urge any of my readers to volunteer at a local art museum or art center to help with the preparation and hanging of a show. It's amazing how much goes into it to give a professional seamless presentation of the art to the public. I think people who work in art museum must have long ago taken the slogan "no guts, no glory" to heart and jumped into doing the work of three normal people. Happily Michael Preble an…

Peninsula Fine Arts Center Unbroken Thread Exhibition

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Just back from the show at Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Above is Michael Preble (2nd from left), the Curator of PFAC, introducing the exhibit to the crowd who came to the opening. I had talked about watching Michael experimenting with the arrangement of the show in the previous blog. Somehow he got all 50 of my oils, pastels and vine charcoal drawings to hang together in a wonderfully cohesive and elegant display before the doors opened late Friday afternoon. Also he put together what is undoubtedly the most thoughtful and best looking text panels to accompany and give background to the art work. I was very impressed with the job he and his staff did.
Here's The Song of All Days, a six foot wide oil that was done strictly from my imagination and memory. It's sort of a memorializing painting that sums up the gratitude I have for all the years I have been able to watch countless sunsets on countless shores. No one painting can encompass all that experience, but…

The Art of Hanging a Show

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When I was a kid I was fascinated by the Cinderella story- especially the magical transformation of her humble mice and pumpkin into a regal carriage with entourage, and at the stroke of midnight all tumble back down again to their lowly state. Painters must be grown up kids who were seized by this notion. They spend their lives transforming the colored mud that we know as oil paint into exalted visions. Done right it's a heck of a good trick.
I was watching the staff at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA unpack my 50 paintings for their Friday opening of their Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch exhibition. In the photo above the man in the blue shirt with the upraised arm is Michael Preble, PFAC's Curator. I figure with that gesture he's either exclaiming in delight, scratching his head, or pulling his hair out in exasperation as he takes in another unwrapped painting. This is in one end of PFAC's cavernous Ferguson Gallery.
Here below is the other …

Edward Hopper Painting Permanence and the Fleeting Moment

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Tomorrow the truck comes to take 49 paintings of mine down to Newport News,Virginia for my show at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. (The show has an opening Friday evening July 22 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. If you're in the area please come by and say hello. It will run through October 2). I still have a few more paintings to wrap up so I'll just make comments on one painting in this post (maybe, just maybe, that will make me short winded). Above is one of my favorite paintings that lives just up the road from me at the wonderful Delaware Art Museum. It's Edward Hopper's oil Summertime.
All painters have to work with is playing off opposite qualities against each other. If you want to express darkness you can only do it by contrasting it against some surface that's very light. That's how our brains work.
The same is true of expressing movement. In this Hopper a young woman basks in the bright sun while standing on some grey limestone steps. The steps and the building a…

Getting Ready for a Big Exhibition

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Philip Koch Banner,  oil on panel, 40 x 30", 2011

Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia will open the latest showing of my eight museum traveling exhibition Unbroken Thead next Friday evening, July 22. This will be the largest show I've ever had as we can expand the number of pieces to fill the generous spaces of PFAC's Ferguson Gallery (see below) and an additional gallery too. So I've added some brand new oils like the one above and some additional works on paper. I love especially the contrast of the grey vine charcoal drawings playinf off my colorful oil paintings.

There will be an opening reception Friday from with a reception 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. I'll be giving a short (very) talk during the ceremonies and I'll be touching on what I believe is the meaning of art. It's an elusive but fascinating question. I talk about why I make art and why I know those efforts matter in the artist's statement the museum asked me to write about th…

Artists and Collectors (Maybe the Best Talk I Ever Gave)

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Philip Koch, North Passage, oil on panel, 18 x 24', 2011

Here are the brief comments I made at a dinner held in my honor by the University of Maryland University College after the opening reception for my exhibition A Vision of Nature: The Landscapes of Philip Koch on Nov. 7, 2004 in College Park, Maryland.
Artists  and art collectors have something in common- it is that search for that special painting. While there are far easier ways to decorate, art collectors sense on a gut level that there is a special quality they want more of in their lives.
Experience, living, is more unexpected than we adults let on. Sometimes it is even strange. The message of painting, and of my paintings, is that this is ok, and beyond that, that allowing ourselves to embrace this awkward side of our experience makes us stronger, gives us bigger lives, makes us more potent, and best of all, happier. 
When someone brings a painting home and puts it up on their wall ultimately they are doing it for only one …

What Two Early Edward Hopper Etchings Say to Us Today

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Edward Hopper lived a long time and kept painting right up until the end. As a result, his earlier work strikes some contemporary viewers as more dated than what he produced later on. For that reason it's not reproduced as often. Yet the seeds of Hopper's art sprouted and bloomed early. We can learn a lot about drawing and about seeing creatively from his early efforts. 
Here are two of his etchings. Above, two passengers sit on the elevated train in New York City. The man is lost in his reading. The young woman gazes out the window the way Hopper himself would likely have been doing. While the two figures apparently ignore each other, they still feel linked together because of choices Hopper made. First, they're both dark silhouettes that stand out as they sit on what's mostly a light bench. If you imagine the axis of either figure you realize both lean back on the same 45 degree diagonal trajectory. This is a conscious positioning of their forms by Hopper, as if he wa…

Koch Show at Carbon County Cultural Project, Jim Thorpe, PA

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Friday night we had an opening reception for my latest exhibt, Philip Koch: Contemporary Landscape Paintings at the Carbon County Cultural Project in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The town is in the southern Pocono Mountains, an area I hadn't known well, and discovering more of its considerable charm was an unexpected benefit of my trip up there.

Here above is me and my wife Alice standing in one of the two gallery spaces CCCP devoted to the show. Behind us are to the left Memorial, oil on panel, 18 x 36", 2011 and From Day to Night, of the same size, medium and date. (You can see most of the images much enlarged by simply clicking on them).The latter painting is a reflection on the passage of time. It was inspired by a long week I spent in Camden, Maine overlooking the Penobscot Bay and wishing the persistent rains would abate. They finally did in the late afternoon of my final day there. The painting is as much about hope for a clearing sky as it is a report on what actually h…