Rahr-West Art Museum

photo by Weinetz Studio

Manitowoc, WI




Phillip Koch: Recent Work

From left to right: Darkening Cove, 1999, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches; Susan, 1998, oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches; Alice in the Truro Studio, 1998, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches; Down to the Bay, 1999, oil on canvas, 36 x 72 inches


The exhibition Phillip Koch: Recent Work opens at the Rahr-West Art Museum on April 11, 1999 and continues to May 9, 1999. In the catalogue prepared for the exhibition, Phillip Koch wrote in February 1999 on "Painting the Modern Landscape:"

"In some ways my paintings were inspired by performance art. It was in 1967 and I had been drafted by my Introductory 3D class instructor to help him with a 'happening,' as such things were then called, at a local community college. I was assigned to run around with him making inappropriate and illogical use of plastic toys and common household objects. Beyond his stated goal of 'breaking through the barrier' I had absolutely no idea what we were supposed to be doing. To make matters worse, only a brave handful of five people had shown up to comprise our audience. My instructor insisted we stay the course and do the performance for the entire scheduled hour. I dutifully did my part. It was painful for me and I can only imagine what must have been going through the viewers' minds. But prodded by my embarrassment, I began to grasp that I would have to find my own path through the world of modern art.
I knew that artists were supposed to be contemporary, yet I repeatedly found myself drawn to the work of 19th century painters of the Hudson River School. While their canvases were often too dark and even sentimental, there was a vitality in their wholehearted embrace of nature's power. Their paintings of slightly haunted forest interiors or of the counterpoint of sea meeting the shore were images that fanned some smoking embers far in the background of my imagination. Why couldn't a modern artist revisit these places? What would my own eyes, fed a diet of Abstract Expressionist brushwork and Rothko's color, find there? Where many artists dismissed the traditions of 19th century landscape painting as outmoded, I found my work wanting to say 'Not so fast.'
It is a truism of contemporary art that we have to change with the times. But change of any real significance has to signal more than just the shifting of fashions. It has to remain true to our deepest insights. Often these come unbidden into our work for reasons that lie buried in our unconscious. They don't ask permission, they just appear. Hopefully we have the good sense not to paint over them. On good days our hands seem to find a mind of their own and turn out colors and shapes we didn't know we had in us. If we can paint in ways true to our psyche, we automatically become contemporary in the very best sense of the word."

Rahr-West Art Museum is located at Park Street at North Eighth, in Manitowoc, WI.


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