Chaim Koppelman  

 
Criticism / Thoughts & Observations / Couples / Self & Relation / Napoleon


Printmaking has the prerequisites for exact criticism. It is incisive, neat, doesn’t spill over, makes its point graphically. Like all people, I am critical; because I hope to be beautifully so, I am a printmaker. For me, printmaking honors, because it criticizes, a world that is vague, vapid, gray, indecisive, boring, wandering, wavering, hovering, in-between, hiding, teasing, fence-sitting, dim, paradoxical, political, fuzzy, shifting, shiftless, infinite, two-faced, uncommitted. Such a world is our very selves. The print is a trumpet call for definition, conviction, taking a stand. When I take the etching needle in my hand the shifting becomes fixed, the in-between definite, the dim clear, the hidden seen, the teasing full-throated.

I began printmaking seriously at Hayter’s Atelier 17 while studying Aesthetic Realism. In coming to see how praise of things and repugnance for them is a problem in aesthetics, a study in the co-presence of opposing forces, my work as a printmaker blossomed, my technique became surer, imagination freer.   

In Eli Siegel’s Fifteen Questions, Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?, he asks about Depth and Surface:

"Is painting, like art itself, a presentation of the 'on top,' obvious, immediate?—And is it also a presentation of what is implied, deep, 'below'?—And is art, consequently, an interplay as surface and sensation as 'this' and depth and thought as 'all that'?"

These opposites are about the deepest things in both technique and idea in printmaking. As graphic artist, loves I’ve had are the drama of forms emerging out of darkness into bright light, suggestively evoking mystery, the unseen, half seen, and the more fully illuminated.”
  —CK
Personal & Impersonal (scroll down for Social Issues)
Click images to enlarge


Death and the Butcher III
1953, color etching, 11½ x 14¾  n.

“In Eli Siegel’s Fifteen Questions:Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?, he asks about Depth and Surface:

Is painting, like art itself, a presentation of the “on top,” obvious, immediate?—And is it also a presentation of what is implied, deep, “below”?
—And is art, consequently, an interplay as surface and sensation as “this” and depth and thought as “all that”?

"These opposites are about the deepest things in both technique and idea in printmaking. As graphic artist, loves I’ve had are the drama of forms emerging out of darkness into bright light, suggestively evoking mystery, the unseen, half seen, and the more fully illuminated.”



Voyage
1955, etching, 5¾ x 15¾ in.  


"Voyage" depicts men in a boat
going somewhere on dry land.



Gentleness
1962, etching/aquatint


"Gentleness" of 1962 has a large being
bending over to comfort the animals,
and the comfort lights up the area
where this takes place.


Death and the Butcher
1957, aquatint. 17¾ x 24 in.
 

The Soul’s Tomb
1959, aquatint, 11 x 13¾ in.



Baby and Beetle
1957, etching and deep etching,
6½ x 6½ in.
 

By the Skin of Our Teeth
1962, aquatint and deep etching,
10 x 15 in.

 


The Offering
1960, deep etch and aquatint,
18 x 14¾ in.
 

Anger
1962, etching, 10¼ in. diameter
 

Meaningful Fisherman/
Worship of the Poles

1953, etching plus drypoint,
9 in. diameter

“This person has been on a trip, has seen the wonder of the boat. He knows the oars have helped him a great deal and he wants them to be in a certain relation. He comes to the V and this has more of the earth feeling and should have, for the drama of it. The idea of sincere worship, an homage to some force is quite beautiful. ‘The Worship of the Poles.’”

—Eli Siegel, "Aesthetic Realism Art Inquiries," 1954

Shake 'em Up
ca. 1970, lithograph, 9½ x 13 in.


Combat
1958, aquatint, 18 x 14¾ in.


“In Combat, which I did at Bob Blackburn’s workshop—a pudgy man-bady is flaunting his power, wrongly fighting a shadowy enemy which, in its liveliness is not really an enemy at all.”

On Meeting Beauty I
1957, aquatint, 11½ x 17¾ in.
 



On Meeting Beauty II
1958, aquatint, 14½ X 17¾ in.
The Print

Can dark and light
Show wrong and right?
And round and straight
Show love and hate?
And dim and clear
Show hope and fear?

I.G.A.S. catalogue, 1958

In terms of the print itself, Chaim Koppelman says Yes to these questions. In the huddled—and coordinated
—rotundity of “On Meeting Beauty II,” the confusion in man and elsewhere is a terror that makes one crumple—but, deeply, it can be beauty, the artist says.  

—Eli Siegel

On Meeting Beauty III
1958, etching, 15 x 18 in.
 

On Meeting Beauty V
ca. 1960s, etching, 9 x 12 in.
 

Sight of Evil
ca. 1954, aquatint, 9 x 5 in.


With quiet intensity and wry humor, Chaim Koppelman reveals his public and private worlds in drawings and etchings rich with poetic imagery. His is a gentle, yet penetrating vision, pulsating with life.

–Michael Leon Freilich, Roko Gallery

Tiredness
1962, etching, 12 x 5½ in.
 





Social Issuesback to top


Murdered, Vietnam
1968, embossment/collage/soft ground etching
22 x 27 in.  
"Chaim Koppelman's compassionate concern with social change, war and its effects on ordinary human beings soon becomes uppermost in the delineation of his work. It is as a moralist and a partisan for peace that he makes his most eloquent visual statements. He is not deterred from tough-minded appraisals of the destructive consequences of war and of political experiences. He has harnessed his skills and his unblinking imagery to the troubled, often controversial problems of our times.”
       
—Una Johnson, "American Prints and Printmakers"


Board of Directors
1971, aquatint/collage (second state)
15 x 21½ in.

This is about institutionalized evil.


Our Injustice, Vietnam
1970, embossment, 23 x 28 in.
The injustice I am talking about is the fact that the U.S wanted to impose the profit system on people who wanted to own and run their own land. These babies are the horrible victims of our contempt. Yet, I show that, even as they are hung from meat hooks they are lively in their gesture and form. This is true about the current war in Iraq.

Vietnam Baby
ca. 1965, etching, 10 X 6¼ in.
 

Vietnam
1965, aquatint, 20 X 15¾ in.
The grieving mother with a dead child in her arms has become a cliché in anti-war protest. Chaim Koppelman, however , has made expert use of aquatint to add a new dimension to the now obvious concept. The mother, as well as child, has the aura of approaching death. Mother and background both reflect the disorder, the filth, and the shadowy nature of war and death. Koppelman’s protest springs from the art and is not superimposed upon it.
 —Ralph Shikes, The Indignant Eye, Beacon Press: 1969

Voices in Granite/Lantern in Granite
1961, aquatint, 12½ x 18 in.
“One of the most crucial things I have learned is about the interference to art, and to our lives—the principle of contempt, described by Eli Siegel. He shows how in art the technique of muting, relating, excluding, is for the purpose of making oneself more by making other things more. In contempt, the technique is to mute, to relate badly, to exclude, for the purpose of making oneself more by making other things less. That is why I say contempt is the greatest enemy of art and of life, and Aesthetic Realism is the greatest enemy of contempt.”