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Press Release

MOWA exhibit celebrates unexpected beauty of the American garage

Exhibition July 18, 2023

WEST BEND, WISCONSIN) – The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) presents Lewis Koch’s Garage Interiors: The Topography of Hidden Space. MOWA will host an opening party for the exhibition on July 22 from 2:00-4:00pm.

Originally exhibited in 1983 as an installation inside his own garage, Lewis Koch’s thoughtful and aberrant view of the American garage is a stimulating glimpse into the life of a homeowner. Koch’s naturally lit, beautifully stark, documentary-style photographs of a built environment are related to our automobile culture and recall the historic 1975 New Topographics exhibition, which captured man-altered landscapes of the West, eroded by industrial development and suburban sprawl.

“The garage is, in many respects, the perfect exemplar of an inner landscape—a -self-contained terrain, both secular and shrine-like, necessary yet neglected,” says Koch.

The Madison-based photographer trains his lens upon the heaps of holiday décor, landscaping tools, defunct appliances, and other household items that often clutter suburban garages and transmogrifies them into considered studies of American car-centric culture. The underlying construct posits that if the automobile is the brain, then the garage is the skull, and the crumbling brick walls, cracked concrete floors, aged wooden beams, and dusty castoff artifacts found inside are the “membrane of memory.”

Koch moved to Wisconsin in 1967 to study history and photography at Beloit College. His work has been displayed internationally in group and solo exhibitions, and can be found in the permanent collections of renowned institutions such as the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art.

“From his extensive library of books to his beautiful and eclectic collections of found objects, Koch is inspired and inspiring,” says Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt. “The installation of the accompanying exhibition, The Street, is presented in stacks and blocks after Koch’s totems and assemblage work that I discovered while working with the artist.”

MOWA is honored to include his work in our permanent collection. His photographs will be on display from July 22–October 15, 2023.


Image credit: Lewis Koch, 8264.7 [Light Stripe], 1983