Drawing from his imagination, Michael Kuch portrays a world both fantastic & familiar. Whimsical juxtapositions of human figure & natural form fuse into personal metaphor. A head sprouts flowers, evocative of inner growth; another face hides under a sea-shell hat, seeking protection. A distinctive, patient tenderness suffuses his imagery. Anthropomorphic frogs, wearing no more than frowns, satire our naked, vulnerable condition. Unceremonious portraits of biblical & mythological characters comment gently on iconoclastic times. A Sisyphus, toiling behind a giant snail, does not strain his muscles; his sad, soft posture conveys a mental rather than physical burden. 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.
Kuch matches his prolific generation of iconography with facility in diverse media. Anchored in solid pen & ink draftsmanship, Kuch is at ease working in ink wash, watercolor, oils, pastels, etching, lithography, & bronze sculpture. Ink wash adds mystery to his meticulous line; ink mixed with watercolor articulates outlines & solidifies space. Knowledge of watercolor's transparencies helps him create layered, gem-like oils. Kuch's first bronze sculpture, Pregnant Man, even plays literally with the creative physicality of the medium. Kuch's various talents give his themes room to evolve according to the subtle, expressive strengths of each material.
Kuch grew up in northern Vermont. He began drawing in pen & ink at the age of eleven & the following year, had a one-person show at a local museum. He remained self-taught until he came under the wing of Leonard Baskin at Hampshire College. Under Baskin's critical eye, Kuch studied life-drawing in the classical tradition. As a student, he was particularly struck by the print work of Odilon Redon, Francisco Goya, and Giambattista Tiepolo. For many years after receiving his BA, Kuch continued to work closely with Baskin, printing etchings in color for Baskin's Gehenna Press. In 1994 Kuch started his own Double Elephant Press with the publication of a book of frog etchings entitled, A Plague on Your House. The book contained a tongue and cheek exposition by Kuch on the demise of frogs that was more about human vulnerability. For the past 20 years Kuch has worked with book artisans in the Northampton area, notably the letterpress printer, Art Larson as well as numerous bookbinders. Lately, Kuch has delved into printing his own etched text and made forays into bookbinding.
Complete collections of Kuch's Double Elephant Press are housed in the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College, the Library of Congress, and the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, among others. The National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as over 60 other institutional collections hold his books. His latest book of etchings, illustrating an unpublished story by Margaret Wise Brown called, The Little River, published by Two Ponds Press, was recently honored with two awards at the UK Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford, England. It was recognized in 2013 with both the Judges' Choice Award and the Parrot Prize for the best-illustrated book printed in the previous two years.
Kuch currently divides his time between his apartment near Ground Zero in Manhattan & his studio in Northampton, Massachusetts.