Showing posts from 2010

Defending an artist who may not need defending- Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper, Route 6, Eastham, oil, collection Swope Art Museum

Lisa Petrulis, the Curator at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana sent me a review of the Whitney Museum's current exhibition Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time (through April 10, 2011). Parts of the review I liked, other sections I disagreed with. But it did set me to thinking

What a tribute to Hopper's art that people all these years later are still so engaged with him (how many other painters from the '30's and'40's are getting such attention these days?). 

The writer of the review I mentioned above declares this early Hopper oil Soir Bleu to be "terrible." I don't think it's one of Hopper's best.  The man at the far left and the standing woman feel like Hopper left them unresolved. The grease painted clown however I find tellingly beautiful. I wonder how many painters today could knock out something comparable? At another point in the review at least one of H…

Caspar David Friedrich

My friend Stapleton Kearns is doing a series of blog posts on one of the key landscape painters who influenced both of us, the British artist John Constable (1776-1837). Born nearly at the same time was the other giant of 19th century British landscape, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). There's another painter who was a huge inspiration to me when I was just starting out as a landscapist, the German Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Funny how all three came into the world so close to each other.
Friedrich (by the way, my middle name is Frederick, does that count for any extra art points?) excelled at creating some of the moodiest landscapes ever painted. By the Sea above poses three women on a boulder watching the voyage of what seem like ghost ships. One of the engines of this painting's expressiveness is how it contrasts a cool light on the far horizon against a glowing subtle warmth of what I take to be the rising moon. Notice how the figures in the foreground are grouped close t…

Seven Day's Review of Philip Koch's Edgwater Gallery Show

Art Review in 12/22/10 Seven Days, Vermont's weekly alternative newspaper 

Tiny TreasuresArt Review: "Petite" and Philip Koch at Edgewater Gallery BY MARC AWODEY

Full Moon by Philip Koch
Middlebury’s spacious Edgewater Gallery has a stunning view of the Otter Creek Falls from its back window, and there’s plenty of dramatic work on its walls, as well. The venue is celebrating its one-year anniversary with more than 100 small works in an exhibition aptly titled “Petite.” The show is stylistically eclectic, but the caliber of the work is uniformly high. Boston artist Ellen Rolli paints with heavy impastos and close color harmonies. “Pink Intrusion” is a 12-by-12-inch nonobjective abstraction made with a broad range of reds, from a pink bordering on lilac to a deep, red-wine hue. In the same size, the acrylic-on-canvas “Break Away” presents a field of dark yellows with patches of cerulean blue, red-orange and various greens stirring the atmosphere. Rolli creates lush, bright imag…

Heading North to Celebrate the Winter Solstice

Here's a painting perfect for today's Winter Solstice- Lawren Harris, Isolation Peak, oil on canvas. (Harris was a Canadian landscape painter active in the earlier years of the 20th century. He's sort of a northern equivalent of the American regionalist painters Charles Burchfield and Grant Wood)
I grew up on the extreme northern border of the U.S. on the shore of Lake Ontario. As kids we imagined that if we so much as put our toe into Lake Ontario we were leaving the country. My mother had gone to school in Toronto and seemed to have warm memories of the experience, so I imagined that across Ontario's waters this place called Canada must be something special. In a way it is. The farther north you go, the lower the sun hangs in the sky. On sunny days the shadows are poignantly long and sharp- just the stuff to excite the painter's eye. 
It's fascinating to compare the above Isolation Peak with the Lawren Harris below, Mt. LeFroy. Both start out with the same basi…

A Cure for Impatience- Drawing

Here's an ink wash drawing by Rembrandt. Almost 400 years since the guy drew it and it still has things to tell us.
Look at the elegant anatomical precision of the woman's head at the left! (you can click on the image for a larger version).
Actually I'm pulling your leg. That head isn't particularly well drawn. But therein lies much of what is so good about this drawing. Rembrandt was using this drawing to help him discover what it was in this scene that he was most genuinely interested in. Instead of a polished finish we get the feeling the artist is groping his way forward. Initially he's not sure exactly what he's after.  He uses the time spent making this drawing to slow himself  down and sift through the possibilities. It's funny as one would think one knows what one likes. Yet art shows us our first answer may not be the best answer. 
So often a piece of art fails because the artist tries to do everything and ends up accomplishing very little. Rembrandt&…

Southern Vermont Arts Center

On my way back home from my exhibit at Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont, I stopped last week in Manchester, VT at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. I'm glad I did. The place has a drop dead gorgeous setting on an old wooded estate at the foot of a mountain. My friend Christine Neill, a fellow professor with me at MICA and a very fine painter, has an impressive show of her semi-abstract watercolors on display there now.
Above is one of the Center's facilities, the Wilson Museum, which often shows works from SVAC's Permanent Collection. Below is one piece on dispaly, a modest still life by Luigi Lucioni, the Italian born American painter (1900 - 1988) who spent time painting in this part of Vermont. Titled Lemon and Beaker. I fell in love with it.
The painter has the look of a hyper-realist, but if one looks closely one realizes Lucioni was a master at abstract composition. He carefully adjusts the levels of darkness in his shadows to emphasize just his favorite si…

Edgewater Gallery, Wintery Vermont and a Lost Camera

I am just back from my trip up to Vermont for the exhibition at Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury. Took a whole lot of photos of my paintings in the gallery and planned to give you a personal guided tour similar to the post earlier this month on my current show at JLP Gallery in Baltimore. Then the Art Devil (a mythological beast devoted to derailing the plans of artists who I am coming closer to believing in all the time) took my camera.
Fortunately I do have a few pictures I took on my phone. Above is the waterfall in the heart of Middlebury. The water crashes over an 18 foot ledge and makes a fabulous roar when you walk into the Edgewater Gallery. The gallery is on the far shore in this photo, just to the right of the tallest brick buildings in the center. And in the gallery right next to my paintings is a big picture window overlooking the falls. It's an amazing space to show paintings. Edgewater by the way has only been open for a year in a handsomely remodeled space that was …

Win a Philip Koch Oil Painting & Support a Great Museum

Here I am yesterday with Jennifer Chapman Smith who's Curator at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland. We're standing beside my oil Beneath the Pine. Jennifer had just installed the it in the Museum's lobby where it will be on view for the next two months.
The Museum is giving it away as one of their featured prizes in its Annual Museum Raffle on Jan. 30, 2011. For a $10 ticket you have a chance to win the painting, a $5000 Shopping Spree at R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, one week at a vacation cottage on Cape Cod, or one of a bunch of other goodies. And you get to support one of America's coolest regional art museums. Here's a link to WCMFA's website where you can buy tickets on line (you don't have to be present at the Jan. 30 ticket drawing to win).
Here's a better view of painting.

Beneath the Pine, oil on panel, 14 x 21", 2010
The painting was done out on location with my trusty portable easel in the Mount Washington neig…

My Family on the Hudson River

What the heck are these musicians doing on my art blog?
For anyone who spends time over Thanksgiving with relatives they don't often see, this holiday is fascinating. We went up to the Hudson River Valley just north of New York City to spend a few days with my wife Alice's nieces and their families. The arts run deep through this family.
On Saturday night we went to party honoring our nieces' dad, Dave Herman, on his 75th birthday. Dave from the '60's up to the '90's was the leading rock DJ on the radio in New York. On the left is Buddy Booker, the husband of our niece Melissa, playing with Melissa's brother Rich Lerner on the right. (Buddy sports impressive dreads that unfortunately don't show in this photo). I don't get to see live music all that often and listening to these two play I was knocked over at how talented my relatives are. Buddy and Rich are both professional musicians.
Watching live music up close you realize some similarities betwe…

One of these 3 images is not by Philip Koch. Can you tell which?

OK, you're sharper than I'd suspected. Yes that's Warhol at the top- a silk-screened Brillo box from 1964. Two years later I became an art major at Oberlin College in Ohio. Warhol was big with some of my art professors. Personally I never found his deadpan response to the world all that interesting. He was extolled as holding the mirror up to America's culture of mass media and advertising imagery. The idea was that by presenting us images like a box of Brillo soad pads as art he would force us to see ourselves in a new light.
The thing was what with TV and Newsweek magazine, we were already up to our gills with such imagery. Bringing it into the art museum too didn't seem to me to change that fact. I've always thought an artist not only showed us what they were painting, but also revealed how they felt about it. With Warhol, you never knew. It always seemed he was playing coy with us.
Fortunately the tree of art has many branches. Warhol sits out on one big li…

Guessing Where that Painting Was Painted

Here's a painting I shipped north yesterday to Edgewater Gallery in Vermont for their Featured Artist show for December (Dec. 1- 31). There's a public reception Saturday Dec. 4 from 5 - 7 p.m. Any readers of this blog are especially welcome to come by and say hello. This one is Trees at Lake Conroe, oil on canvas, 42 x 28".
Inevitably when people really respond to one of my paintings at an opening reception they come up to me a little excited and announce they know exactly the spot where the piece was painted. I'm always temped to tell them "You're right." Because in a real sense they are.
Let me explain. A painting is a little like a springy trampoline for one's imagination and memory. In all of us both those capacities tend to get rusty and need to get provoked back into action. That's where the art part comes in. If my painting is really well painted it is saying something important to the viewer using the unique language of shapes and color c…

Dressing for Success with Winslow Homer!

The longer I paint the more my eye focuses on how great painters presented their ideas rather than what they painted. Here are three wonderful paintings where the great 19th century American Winslow Homer gives our eyes some delightful fashion tips (OK, I'm kidding about the fashion tips part, but he does show us how inventive he can be in his paintings. Images courtesy Art Renewal Center). Let's take a look at what Homer can do with arranging his costumes to pump up the expressive volume.
At the top is Homer's watercolor Early Evening. The two women at the right have the spiffiest aprons. Both women stand totally erect, and without their aprons blowing off to the left, they'd look like two telephone poles. Almost undoubtedly the diagonal sweep of the aprons was something Homer consciously inserted into his scene, knowing it would breath life into his women. It's a note of visual surprise. Without it, these two women wouldn't draw our attention the way they do.