Skip to main content

Painter William Eckhardt Kohler at Linda Warren Projects

Painter William Eckhardt Kohler contemplates his exhibition at Linda Warren Projects

William Eckhardt Kohler is a painter who lives in New York City, though he still retains a base in Chicago where he lived and worked for many years. I met up with him at Linda Warren Projects a few weeks ago, to talk about two shows that he has installed there (on display until August 13th 2016). One is a show that he curated himself, called New York; New Friends, and it comprises one of his own paintings in company with paintings and sculptures by artists from New York with whom he shares an affinity, not so much in the handling of the medium of paint, but in their dedication to its continued expressive possibilities.

Oil painting on linen by William Eckhardt Kohler at Linda Warren Projects
"Knock", oil on linen, 60" x 48", 2015
His particular mastery of oil paint on canvas is in full evidence in the gallery containing his own paintings. Collectively titled Alchemy+Elements, his paintings are typically four feet to six feet on their longest side, and work from the first lay-in up to the final overlaying of thicker forms in a classically structured surface, despite their semi-abstract content. Go in close, and you see thin washes of paint, then more solid brushwork, then impasto, then his second and third thoughts, with scrapings-off and addings-on, all coalescing in forms that hint at representational elements (doorways, ladders, boats, seascape) but which exist in a creatively tense space between pure enjoyment of the sensuality of oil paint and gestures in the direction of narrative meaning.

Oil painting by William Eckardt Kohler semi-abstract highly colored
"The Queen's Canopy", oil on linen, 36" x 48", 2016
We talked for more than an hour about these matters, and his habit of piling up forms in the centre of the picture, and his use of high-keyed colour and contrasting black. We spoke about the Chicago and New York art scenes, the future of the gallery system, and what artists learn as they grow older. It's a long-established facts that artists don't need to be personally all that interesting in order to produce good work. But in the case of Kohler, his paintings show a mixture of intellectual complexity and directness that happen to coincide with the man.

If you live in Chicago, you have just under two weeks to experience one part of this equation for yourself.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Soft Ground Etching with Baldwin Intaglio Ground

This is another post where I talk about my own research into how to obtain the best results from non-toxic etching materials -- specifically, the Baldwin Intaglio Ground. This is a form of etching resist developed by printmaker Andrew Baldwin, from the UK, as a non-toxic alternative to the nasty chemicals contained in traditional hard ground and soft ground resists. It comes in a tube, and when you squeeze some out onto an inking slab it looks like etching ink. You roll it onto the copper plate with a brayer, as if you were inking a relief block, in contrast to the traditional hard grounds, which are either melted onto the plate or poured on as a liquid hard ground. Applying the BIG to make a hard ground is relatively easy. Using it as a soft ground can be quite tricky, and it has taken me many tries and many failures to achieve a satisfactory etch.

The main problem, unfortunately, is the lack of specific instructions in preparing the BIG soft ground. Andrew Baldwin has some excellen…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.