This visionary quality is most clear in his porcelain dragons . Hardly a form one expects to find made by a serious artist, or to have any sort of originality or intensity of expression, even in those countries where the dragon is part of active folklore, they are based on the sort of ceramic figures sold in Chinatown. But the specific forms are Koschetzki's own; indeed they approach abstraction based on dragons. The technique is highly original and awesome, and the spirituality of the dragon concept (bird-serpent, spirit of heaven crossed with that of earth, et al.) is remarkably incarnated. The largest dragon in the show is a solid hunk of porcelain weighing perhaps forty pounds. (Porcelain is difficult to create except in thinnish walls.)
Koschetzki also makes abstract sculptures of stoneware, far-out arrays of spiral-grooved long-loaf or cane forms, perhaps phallic (this idea distressed the artist). They spring off from a solid ball of clay atop massy rectangular blocks of clay as pedestals are built solid, hollowed out, fired, repaired at the inevitable cracks, and lined inside with industrial epoxy.
The exhibit includes a dozen or so paintings, some up to eight feet high, and two series of three are among them. They are painted in thinned acrylic by glazing, a term and technique not elsewhere used with acrylic to my knowledge. Acrylic is opaque and flat-tish like poster paint, so one does not expect nor get any kind of translucency (such as is the purpose of using it with oils); but Koschetzki does get a sort of emphatic, deep, unequivocally rich color, odd-looking, which accords with the strangeness of his pictures.
Most of the paintings look pre-planned as they are line-based with areas of flat color within hard edges—a design look. The artist does not make preliminary sketches however, and the pictures evolve greatly during development, which may proceed for over four months (during which time he meticulously records hours spent on it). Koschetzki thinks of himself as communing with his subconscious while he works, and some elements of his pictures are mysteries to him; for instance, several white discs in the sky. (Another instance is "Cool Hope and the Chaining of Bullebach," which includes a subterranean devil-like figure who appeared during the painting process, and even revealed his name to the painter.)
The most arresting are four paintings which use his wife as model, a strikingly beautiful woman with reddish hair, a sweet smile and a look of cool sensuality. In a triptych, she is cast in surrealistic allegorical encounters with graphic representations of what I suppose to be life-force lust, yin/yang interactions, communing with fantasy beasts in the sky. In another, "Laurel" we see her suspended nude but for a diaphanous drape in a lounging pose in mid-air, resembling a more ethereal countess than Goya was interested in. She is dropping a rose from her hand.
The landscapes in these paintings have big skies, where most of the action takes place; in some, complex repetitive designs of lines (like computer graphics) are painted (meaning unknown to the artist).
Some large plants are revealed with schematic root systems in the underground emphatic. Several landscapes have the north profile of Overlook Mountain as a (deliberate) earthly spiritual anchor.
Koschetzki is interested in paint as a means of communication, and is seldom indulged for itself, as a liquid paste which can remember how it was laid out.
A few paintings are more conventional still-life's or landscapes. (One shows a goldfish-like hummingbird-like creature poised before flowers.) But generally these lack the autobiographical fascination of the more imaginative scenes with implied narratives. The one which is most involving is actually autobiographical in origin:
"Our Farm" is a memorial depiction of several animals the artist loved enough to move from Illinois to Saugerties, with a little house he built for some of them. Koschetzki is a visionary artist such as were Blake (but without an explicated theology), Chagall, Fuseli, Dali (in the allegorical paintings of his wife). His images have a look of uncontrived, unself-conscious naiveté or innocence, although they are obviously the work of a trained and intelligent artist. He "looks into his heart and paints" (a phrase nowadays invoked only to say that in the modernist period, so self-consciously intellectual, it's impossible to do.) Anything suggesting impulses to com-merciality, mode-mongering or meretricious-ness is absent absolutely. Koschetzki is one of those quintessential, self-reliant loner/ originators ("pioneers," they are called in some endeavors) who make their own art and worlds, and ignore, even if aware of, what other people do or think. More than in any other culture in history, this is not uncommon in this country; and ultimately it is a mainspring of the diversity, depth, self-reliance and dynamic of our arts.
Jürgen Alfred Koschetzki is an inventive technician, expert in ceramic-kiln building and all aspects of ceramic arts, and has taught at a half-dozen universities and other schools.
— Tram Combs
KOSCHETZKI: Painting and sculpture. City Lights Gallery, 5 Rock City Road. August 22-30, 1987 (reception August 22, 4-6 pm). Hours: Noon-9 pm Fri.-Su
P.O. Box 628 Catskill NY 12414
Tel: 1 845 246 0282
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