Friday, February 24, 2017

Swope Art Museum Permanent Collection Part 1

Having visited the Swope Art Museum several times before, I knew that it had a remarkable Permanent Collection. We traveled there earlier this month for the opening reception for their current exhibition of my own paintings. Naturally we wanted to see the work in their Collection as well. Above is my wife Alice standing next to Swope's Thomas Hart Benton painting Threshing Wheat from 1938-39. The tractor's smoke and the clouds in the painting seem to move of course,  but in Benton's lively imagination his piles of wheat and the distant hills pulsate as well.

Art can transport us to a different place or into a different mood. A real gem in Swope's Collection is Grant Wood's Spring in Town, oil, 1941. 

While painted in the threatening early years of WWII, it exudes a quiet optimism as we watch the figure preparing the ground for planting.  The garden's freshly turned earth is magically dark and fertile looking. I want to take my shoes off and feel that dirt between my toes. Apparently this was Grant Wood's last painting. It seems to me to be a great note to go out on...

The exhibition of my own paintings at the Swope focuses on the work I made during my 16 residencies in Edward Hopper's Truro, MA studio. However I have also fallen in love with the work of one of the reclusive Hopper's few friends, the watercolorist Charles Burchfield. Though Hopper and Burchfield painted in dramatically different ways they each had a profound respect for each other's work.

Here I am with the Swope's large Burchfield watercolor Old Houses in Winter. Burchfield loved to tinker with his painting in his studio. He worked on this one from 1929 - 1941. 

These last two years I have been the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY (BPAC). It has the voluminous 25,000 piece Burchfield Archives. Happily I was given access to study hundreds of Burchfield's working drawings that are rarely seen. Here's one that I photographed in the Archives that is huge. Burchfield joined together several sheets of paper to allow him to work at the 4 to 5 foot wide scale often used in his major watercolors. While not identical to the subject of Swope's Burchfield, this drawing shows a very similar cluster of run-down old buildings. 

BPAC's drawing reveals Burchfield's art was a complicated affair- it could be wildly fanciful or even darkly moody. But he had a craftsman-like side that often liked to plan out his ideas ahead of time as he was doing here. 

Nancy Weekly, the Curator of the Burchfield Collection at BPAC, told me she feels Burchfield's freshness of execution often came from the way he would "rehearse" the strokes he wanted his brush to make on separate sheets of paper. I wonder if the drawing I photographed above wasn't part of the preparation for the Swope's Old Houses in Winter.

In a few days I'll show some more favorites from the Swope's Collection in a new blog post.

Swope's show of my own work continues through March 25, 2017. Hope many of you can get to visit the Swope and see it and their Collection in person.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Swope Art Museum Exhibition Part II

This is me last week in Terre Haute, Indiana grinning next to Swope Art Museum's famous Hopper oil, Route 6, Eastham from 1941. 

Here are some more images of Swope's current exhibition Light and Shadow: Paintings and Drawing by Philip Koch from Edward Hopper's Studio (through March 25, 2017). Susan Baley, Swope's Director, conceived of the show to connect some contemporary art with some of the key artworks from the founding collection when the Swope opened to the public 75 years ago. 

Here's the signage at the entrance to the three galleries the Museum has devoted to my work.

In one of the two larger galleries, a  panorama of three of my large landscape oils- left: After the Storm III, 45 x 90 inches, 1986, middle: Horizon, 40 x 60 inches, 2016, right: Down to the Bay, 36 x 72 inches, 2008. The lighting on these paintings in the gallery was just perfect to show their colors.

Below: In the other large gallery- left: Truro Studio Kitchen, oil, 40 x 30 inches, 2016, middle: Edward Hopper's Truro Studio Kitchen, vine charcoal, 8 x 10 inches, 2012, right: Edward Hopper's Truro Studio Kitchen: Open Door, oil, 40 x 60 inches, 2016.

A detail of the middle drawing- this is where Hopper and his wife Jo ate their breakfast.

Another view:

Below: In the opposite corner of the same gallery, two views of Hopper's bedroom. At right: Truro Studio: Two Rooms, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2016. At left an earlier drawing of the same bedroom closet, Hopper Bedroom III, vine charcoal, 7 x 14 inches, 2012.

Here's a close up of the small drawing in the distance in the photo above, Hopper Bedroom III. It has been an incredible help to me to be able to observe the studio's interior at all times of day over the course of years. Making drawings served as preparation to tackling this closet in oil at a large scale. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Swope Art Museum Exhibition Part 1

Left: Philip Koch's Morning at the Route 6, Eastham House,
oil on canvas, 30 x 60 inches, 2016. Right: Edward Hopper.
Route 6, Eastham, oil on canvas, 1941. 

The above photo was taken last weekend in one of the three galleries Swope Art Museum has devoted to their new show of my paintings done during my residencies in Edward Hopper's Truro, MA studio. Hopper was the big influence on me when I was a young artist. Naturally it is a deep honor to have my work hanging next to that of the man who was my greatest teacher.  

The Friday evening opening for the show was probably the largest turnout I've ever had for one of my exhibitions. Swope Museum did a wonderful job installing and lighting the work. 

There must have been ten people, none of them known to me, who came up to me the during the reception to say they saw the common thread that runs through Hopper's art and my own, but that they liked how my paintings had a different handling and feeling to them. It was a very sweet experience for me. 

Swope Museum's Director Susan Baley with 
Hopper's Route 6, Eastham

Swope has a stellar collection of American realist paintings from the first half of the 20th century. Most prominent of them is  Hopper's Route 6, Eastham. All three of the works I made working from the same house and barn Hopper chose are together in the exhibition. 

I knew from the start I wanted to depict the house and barn in a different mood than Hopper's interpretation. Where he chose a late afternoon light for his oil, I purposely arrived early in the morning to see the structures in bright morning sun.

Philip Koch, Morning at the Route 6, Eastham
House, vine charcoal, 7 x 14 inches, 2016

Below are four small vine charcoal drawings that I made first to help me sift through the possibilities. I found it was the upper story of the buildings that felt most expressive so I chose to concentrate my attention there. The drawing above is the final result and it is included in the exhibit.

From that charcoal drawing I made this small oil on panel as a first step in discovering the color chords for my final large canvas.

Philip Koch, Morning at the Route 6, Eastham
House, oil on panel, 12 x 24 inches, 2016.

Here I am with the final canvas.

I will be showing more of the paintings in the exhibition in an upcoming blog post in several days. Here's a view of some of the work in the Museum's Haslem Gallery, one of the other two large spaces where the work is installed.