Showing posts from June, 2010

Article from the South Bend Tribune

Inland, oil, 45 x 60, 2008 included in the Unbroken Thread exhibition at the Midwest Museum of American Art
The 6/26/10 South Bend Tribune published a feature article on my exhibition at the Midwest Museum of American Art. Their reporter did a great job, interviewed me twice and came to the opening reception. The entire article is posted on my website:

Adirondacks & Plattsburgh State Art Museum, Part II

In my book nobody captures the spirit of being alive quite so well as Rockwell Kent in his work on paper. Above are two currently hanging in the Plattsburgh State Art Museum's Kent Gallery. At the top iswood engraving Godspeed of 1931 where an angel guides and protects a lonely mariner crossing the vast sea. Who wouldn't want such a gentle helping hand from the the heavens? Kent creates a beautiful contrast between the angel's angular arms and the open sweeping flow of her skirts. The figure's silhouette alone imbues the angel with life and personality.
Underneath it is Pinnacle, a lithographfrom 1928 where a dark silhouetted man breaks up the empty white sky. I love the little white space squeezed between the figure's right forearm and his hips. The man and the boulder share a massive yet elegant solidity. He seems to become everyman taking in the whole world. (If you click on the photo you'll get a larger version of the prints that shows much of their elegan…

The Plattsburgh State Art Museum: A Little Jewel in the Adirondacks

I'm just returned from a painting trip to the Adirondack Mountains in the northernmost corner of New York State. I go there for the unrivaled wild terrain.
One of the key functions of art is it shows us how to see the world. As a painter I've learned enormous lessons from the artists who've trodden the path before me. No one has taught me more than Rockwell Kent, the American artist who lived from 1882-1971. I believe he is our finest printmaker, bar none. The biggest single influence on my own painting of the last 15 years is Kent's wood engravings.
One of my favorite small art museums, the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, has the above Kent wood engraving hanging now in its Rockwell Kent Gallery. It's always worth the drive up to Plattsburgh, NY to visit it on the shore of Lake Champlain just a couple of miles this side of the Canadian border. This wood engraving by Rockwell Kent captures the spirit of the man as well as of the Adirondacks in general. Plattsburgh …

Sitting with the Muses

Arthur B. Davies, oil, The Goatherd, c, 1913, Midwest Museum of American Art

If you look up "museum" in the dictionary it will tell you the word comes to us from the Latin for "the seat of the Muses." I like that. Maybe that's why I have two inviting rocking chairs in my studio. Perhaps I'll put a neatly lettered sign on the door where passing muses may see it reading "Please Come In."
We need such visitors, artists to help us with our work, and the everyone else as well just to lend our lives extra meaning and some fun. Above is a painting from the Midwest Museum of American Art's Permanent Collection by a painter I think is absolutely wacky but sometimes very good. Arthur B. Davies is usually considered part of the Ash Can School of American painters early in the 20th century.
But you'll have to look long and hard to find ash cans in his paintings, unlike other members of that group like John Sloan and Robert Henri. Davies started out m…

Again at the Midwest Museum of American Art

Here are some paintings from the Midwest Museum of American Art's Permanent Collection that were on display in the galleries adjoining their display of my own exhibition Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch. Above is an oil by John Elwood Bundy (1853-1933) that the museum lists as Untitled (Indiana Landscape). I was drawn to it as it reminds me so much of the landscape I used to paint out around Bloomington and Nashville, Indiana when I was first venturing outside to paint as a grad student at Indiana University.
Bundy probably did this one mostly outdoors too. He deftly focuses our attention on some trees far more than others by limiting his use of strong darks to only a few places in the painting. As it's mostly done in subtle umbers and yellows, this heightened sensitivity to tonalities is critical for the warm glowing atmosphere that ties the painting together.
Bundy moved to the small city of Richmond, Indiana and taught at Earlham College's Art Department. He paint…

The Midwest Museum of American Art

I'm a huge fan of American regionalist painting and lap up any chance I get to see it. On Sunday I attended the Midwest Museum of American Art's opening reception for my Unbroken Thread exhibition. MMAA is the latest stop for this 8 museum traveling exhibition organized by the University of Maryland University College. I was in good company. Below are two paintings that were hanging in the MMAA's other galleries.

Grant Wood, (1892-1943) Sheaves of Corn, oil on wood panel, 1931
Years ago in the early '90's I had my first art museum solo exhibition in Grant Wood country at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in Iowa. As his hometown museum, CMRA has a huge collection of early Grant Wood paintings that all but hit me over the head. Ever since I've made a point of studying his work. Wood has a wonderful assortment of massively heavy volumes in his work. Notice the subtle modeling of his fields and hill sides in this oil. The amazing thing about him is the way he combines…

The Great Tree of Art

Philip Koch, Inland, oil on canvas, 45 x 60", 2008

One of the lessons that came from my early teachers was seeing painting as a flat surface like a wall that you would then decorate by breaking it up into colored pieces. Even later as I came to focus more on building deep spaces and atmosphere, you can still feel in my work the brushstrokes as individuals who delight in doing their little dance up on the surface of the painting. Maybe one never completely outgrows one's early teachers. There's a side of me that's a crypto-modern artist.
In many ways it helps to envision the art world as a great tree with many branches. In the previous post, My Early Years As an Artist, I talked about my long route from a beginner in 1966 to my Master of Fine Arts program at Indiana University. Pretty much every artist I met along the way had a similar university oriented background. You could say we were all sitting together on the same big branch. I didn't know much about the re…

My Early Years as an Artist

Frank Stella, Harran II, 1967

Here are two painters who were among the first artists I started looking at when I first studied painting in the 1960's at Oberlin College. The top image is by Frank Stella, a painter who was the darling of the moment when I first started paying attention to comtemporary art. He was one the favorites of my first teacher Christopher Muhlert. Since I greatly liked my first teacher, it was easy to be influenced by his enthusiasm. And Stella's work at that time was easy to like. It seemed to celebrate clear clean color and simple bold geometry. Usually done on a huge scale, it simply bowled you over. A lot of Stella's work employed masking tape and acrylic paint. Needing a place to start my own explorations in painting I figured that was as good a place as any to jump in the pool. So I grabbed a roll of tape and made some simple paintings of sharp edged rectangles of color. It's a quick way of working, and I made lots of them. I noticed so…