Colorful contrasting of fantasy and reality: Schick Art Gallery hosts satirical Michael Kuch exhibition

Posted by Kristin Travagline

Michael Kuch's exhibit of multiple mediums and brilliant colors appears too bold to be contained within the small Schick Art Gallery, where it is on display until Sept. 26.

Kuch will discuss his experiences as a printmaker and book artist when he delivers the 2010 Fox-Adler Lecture on Sept. 23 at 5:15 p.m. in Gannet Auditorium. The lecture is titled "The Annotated Image:  When Picture Precedes Text—the Books of Michael Kuch."

A reception in the Schick Art Gallery will immediately follow the lecture. Admission to the gallery, lecture and reception is free.

Kuch's artistic skills are primarily grounded in solid pen and ink craftsmanship, He is also comfortable working in ink wash, watercolor, oils, pastels, etchings, lithography and bronze sculpture. He often incorporates woodcuts and etchings into his limited edition books.

Kuch's wide variety of expertise characterizes the exhibition with energy and vibrancy. "Kuch's various talents give his themes room to evolve according to the subtle, expressive strengths of each material," the catalogue accompanying the exhibit said.

The exhibit explores themes as weighty as imperialism, mortality and the human imagination, keeping the viewer's mind reeling. "Kuch's art does not focus on verisimilitude, nor does it dwell in aesthetic interpretation; rather, these qualities attend human experience as revealed from the inside: a world of psychological reflection," a description accompanying the exhibit said.

Kuch's piece "Fossil Dirigibles" is an etching on handmade paper that serves as a powerful reminder of human mortality. The etching displays a skeleton attached to a long-stem flower by thin, delicate threads. Bronze wires and clusters of string bind the pages and creatively mirror the composition of the image.

Another primary theme coursing through the exhibit is the relationship between reality and fantasy. "Kuch portrays a world both fantastic and familiar," the description said.

The monotype "Pegasus" is especially arresting and exemplifies this theme of the show. Monotyping is a type of printmaking. The artist draws or paints on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. The image is then transferred onto a sheet of paper.

"Pegasus" is the largest framed piece in the exhibition and Kuch's skillful use of bold primary colors gently provokes the attention of the viewer. Strong reds, blues, greens and yellows accent the arches of the broad wings that span the entire length of the canvas. Further traces of these colors add emphasis to the mythical creature's muscular chest and strong legs.

Yet, the piece maintains a soft, misty, ethereal quality appropriate to Pegasus' divine associations. The predominantly light gray background and white accents on Pegasus' body and wings help achieve this effect. "Patient tenderness suffuses his imagery," the description said.

The head, chest and front legs of the Pegasus command the central focus of the image, while the rear of the body and back legs recede into the background. This deliberate composition gives the impression of Pegasus emerging from the canvas, blazoning forth in a full gallop.

Kuch was born in 1965 and grew up in Northern VT. He was self-taught until he came under the wing of Leonard Baskin at Hampshire College.

In 1994 Kuch started his Double Elephant Press. In 2000, he produced the book "Falling to Earth," in response to the events of Sept. 11.

More of Kuch's artwork is on display on the first floor of the Lucy Scribner Library.

Many of Kuch's limited edition books are held in the artists' book collection in the Department of Special Collections in the Pondorff Room of the Lucy Scribner Library.

More information about Kuch can be found at http://cms.skidmore.edu/schick.

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