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