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Showing posts from May, 2013

Philip Koch Quoted in Whitney Museum's Hopper Drawing Exhibition Catalogue

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The Whitney Museum of American Art's  Hopper Drawing show opens today in New York (through October 6, 2013).



Carter Foster, the Museum's Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing, writing in the opening paragraph of his exhibition catalogue essay includes a footnote concerning Hopper's oil Rooms by the Sea that quotes at length something I had written to him recently.

Foster writes: "Artist Philip Koch, who has spent time in the Hopper's former house making his own work, shared these illuminating thoughts about the difference between the painting and the views from and inside the house. 'A comparison of Hopper's inventive vision and the actual "facts" of the studio's architecture is revealing. Hopper's famous oil contrasts the open waves of Cape Cod Bay directly agains the doorway. To heighten the contrast, he places a big blast of sunlight on the empty wall and darkens down the water. It works beautifully.

But to get to this, he had to move th…

The Conversation between Monet and Edward Hopper

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Here's a painting I've always loved, Monet's oil Bathing at Grenoulliere from 1869. In it Monet seems transfixed by the ambient light that fills the partly shadowed foreground. It is so rhythmic I almost feel a little dizzy looking at it.
I first ran across it in 1971 when I was in my MFA program in painting at Indiana University. It was reproduced in one of the textbooks I read for an art history class on 19th century painting I took  
Monet was alive when Hopper lived in Paris and the two could have met (they didn't, at least not literally). But if you look at the some of the work the young Hopper was doing during his stays in Paris, you realize Hopper had indeed had long "conversations" with Monet's paintings. He intently studied the older painter's ideas. In particular, Hopper drank up the French Impressionist's sense of lightened overall tonalities and how he played them off against just a few dark accents. 
Here's Hopper's early oil Le …

Carving out the space, Or Painting with a Mellonballer

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When I was a kid I had chores. One that I liked was using one of those funny looking scoops to scrape out little balls of watermelon when we were making fruit salad. Watermelon was soft, and compared to say cantaloupe, the going was easy. Into the flat surface of a half watermelon you'd go and in a few minutes you'd have carved out a whole cave. To a kid with a good imagination, this was heaven.
I though of this years later when I read that George Seurat had described painting as "the carving out of space." It's more than just that of course, but it's intriguing that a painter who's so associated with elegantly composing his flat shapes and covering his canvas with intricate pointillist dots would choose to talk about carving out space. Depth for a painter has expressive purpose.
Here's a real celebration of deep space by the 19th century German artist Caspar David Friedrich.

Friedrich wants you to feel you can go somewhere and invites you to pick you wa…