Forty-five-year Retrospective at the Grolier Club
Embodied Language and the Form of the Book
September 11 - November 23, 2019
Rutledge Koch has been designing and printing limited edition books,
portfolios, and ephemera since 1974. He has long been recognized as one of the
most accomplished printers and typographic designers of his generation. His
training, influences, and achievements place him in the lineage of San
Francisco literary fine press printers. A forty-five-year retrospective opens
at the Grolier Club on September 11 and remains on view through November 23,
2019. The works on display, published by Koch between 1974 and 2019, span
wide-ranging territory, from cowboy surrealism to pre-Socratic philosophy, and
from contemporary and Renaissance poetry to hard-hitting photo-based requiems
to the American West.
spent his youth in Montana, steeped in the lore of the American West and
witness to its aftermath of environmental and cultural destruction, which
continues to influence his work more than four decades later. His aesthetic was
subsequently shaped by apprenticeship to the San Francisco printer Adrian
Wilson and matured through various imprints in studios in the Bay area.
printing career began in Missoula, where he founded Black Stone Press in 1974.
The press’s first publication, Montana Gothic (1974–1977), is best
described as a cowboy surrealist literary journal. The press relocated to San
Francisco in 1978 and closed six years later. Koch subsequently published under
press names that reveal his eclectic interests and seriousness of purpose as
well as his irreverence: Peter Rutledge Koch, Typographic Design; Peter and the
Wolf Editions; Editions Koch; Hormone Derange Editions; Last Chance Gulch; and
Peter Koch Printer.
Lobos (1987) was Koch’s first mature
contribution to the tradition of Bay Area fine press printing as well as his
first post-Black Stone Press publication and remains a masterwork. It consists
of a portfolio of fifteen poems by Robinson Jeffers and fifteen photographs by
Wolf von dem Bussche (Peter and the Wolf editions) housed in a black walnut
1990, with Herakleitos, Koch began a series of works by Greek
pre-Socratic philosophers that ventured into a new realm of art practice. “Herakleitos led
me out of the framework of traditional typographic refinement into what I
believed to be the arena of the book as a work of art,” he said in a 2015
2005 bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition became a galvanizing point
for a group of publications described collectively as the “Montana Suite.” Each
work reveals aspects of the transformation of the American West by European
migration and the destruction of native territory and traditions through what
Koch describes as “photo interventions.”
American, classical Greek, and Italian Renaissance—forms the warp of Koch’s
publishing cloth; its weft is the creative work of his many collaborators,
whose engravings, etchings, drawings, collages, and paintings accompany and
animate the texts he chooses to print.
addition to traditional codex fine press books and portfolios printed on paper,
Koch at times expresses his ideas in varied formats he refers to as “text
transmission objects.” Materials include the use of lead as a printing
substrate, acid-etched zinc plates, and innovative binding structures and
housings custom-designed to support the pages. The Defictions of Diogenes
(1994) presents twenty-one short philosophical performance pieces by Thomas
McEvilley based on the life of the arch-cynic Diogenes of Sinope (b. 404 BC). The
text is hand-lettered by Christopher Stinehour, printed letterpress from zinc
engravings onto lead tablets by Koch and housed in a unique ceramic box by
sculptor Stephen Braun.
is co-director with his wife, art conservator Susan K. Filter, of the Codex
Foundation (est. 2005), devoted to preserving and promoting the book as a work
of art. The foundation organizes the biennial CODEX International Book Fair and
Symposium, which brings artists who work in the form of the book from all over
the world to the Bay Area with support from Stanford Libraries and other
institutions and individuals.
The Grolier Club exhibition originated with Stanford Libraries Department of
Special Collections, the repository of Koch's archive.
CATALOGUE: A heavily illustrated three-volume catalogue
accompanies the exhibition. For a full description of the catalogue, see www.peterkochprinters.com.
LECTURES and PRESENTATIONS:
11, 6:00 p.m. – Curator’s Chat with Roberto G. Trujillo, Associate University
Librarian and Director of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.
October 2, 6:00 p.m. – “Against Design: The Work of Peter Koch”, lecture by Russell
October 18 -19, 2019. A CODEX/Grolier International
Symposium: The CODEX Effect: A
Conversation Between Artists, Curators, Scholars, and Collectors. For more
information and tickets, go to www.codexfoundation.org.
Ground Floor Gallery Exhibition
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
"Peter Koch, Printer. A Forty-five Year Retrospective." The exhibition runs through November 23, 2019.