I had the pleasure of becoming reacquainted with Albuquerque based artist David Koch's work through New Mexico Showcase and was able to stop by his studio in the north valley recently to see the direction his recent offerings have taken.
Where are you originally from?
Bossier City, Louisiana
How did you end up in New Mexico?
I caught the first ride out of town. After graduating with a BFA from Louisiana Tech, I came out here with 2 friends to basically hang out for the Summer. That was in 1983 and I've been here ever since.
Can you explain a bit about your approach/process?
Sure. Because I have a day job, when I get home to my studio I need to break the process down into what ever I can get done that evening.
I begin with an idea ...usually something I've seen or felt during the day. I open Photoshop and make a square and bisect it down the middle creating two planes. I then insert a third plane in the center in the form of a geometric shape, then justify all this with a non-linear narrative that follows it's own internal logic. Lately this has taken the form of a set or sets of hands attempting to repair, fix, fit, assemble, or otherwise alter the situation.
|A couple of David's custom stretchers in progress|
Since you're using Photoshop for your preliminary conceptual and design processes, you're essentially faced with unlimited possibilities, Is that a hard thing to come to terms with?
I don't think so really. I like to create a set of parameters based on either scale, proportions, subject matter, or all three. Within these limits I allow myself to try anything. What is wonderful about sketching with a digital medium is, so what if I fail. I can try again and probably learn something at the same time. I have Photoshop files made up of 20 or more layers, but the final result is maybe 4 or 5 that you actually see.
|The backside, pretty cool looking in itself!|
Do you have to resist the urge to manipulate too much?
If by manipulate you are referring to the incredible potential of the software, Photoshop has more tools and filters than I would ever want to learn. I always keep in mind that I'm making collages that I'm using as a study for a painting. I have to push paint around a piece of primed woven fabric to get this thing to work, so I am well aware of the need to keep it simple.
But if by manipulate you are referring to the seemingly endless possibilities of creating 5 to 25 megabyte PSD files, then yes, it is a little challenging because it so enjoyable. I literally have thousands of files on a number of hard drives.
|The process. David starts designing in Photoshop then paints the real thing.|
|Tongue Twisted Soul #31.|
A lot of your most recent work deals with shape and color relationships, both of which seem pretty specific and important. How do you decide on what shades of colors/geometric shapes to use?
I always start with the most elemental forms both in color and shape. I learned from Donald Judd the idea that color is a kind of subject matter. I will use the intensity or value of a specific color to balance or contrast mark making.
The colors and shapes I use are often drawn from the observed world. It could be something I see driving up Montgomery Blvd. on the way to the dentist or something I see in a magazine in his waiting room. I am very much attuned to graphic design. To me, the visual world is made up of shape and color relationships.
Once I start a piece in Photoshop, I will usually work with complementary colors then distort them so that the relationship has either a tension or a pleasing affect. Usually both within the same piece. If something is too nice, I'll try to disrupt it and if something is too chaotic I tend to want to apply some order to it, this applies to both color and shapes. My energy is usually moving in one direction or the other.
|A couple of older pieces from David's Self Portrait series (Good left, Warm right)|
Looking at some of your older work, you've seemingly shifted away from realism for a more paired down abstraction/minimalism. What direction do see your work headed?
I definitely feel a pull towards more abstract forms today than I have in the past. I guess the desire to be more open-ended and less dependent on specific subject matter would explain that pull. I think my work has always had a reductive quality about it. I used to joke that more than 3 elements on the canvas and I get confused, but I think the less elements you have the more weight each has and the more pressure there is to get each one right.
|Tongue Twisted Soul #11. In case you're keeping track, the series will eventually contain 100 paintings|
How do the geometric pieces fit into the overall theme of your work?
The geometric shapes reflect my interest in how things are put together. And there are certain shapes I think have a more contemporary quality about them. For instance if I create a rectangle and round one or more of the corners, it can become something that references both industrial design or graphic design.
Plus the idea of a container has a very strong pull for me. The idea that a box can contain a pair of shoes or enough electronic components to be a computer is pretty compelling.