Richard Kurtz (American, b. 1955)

Richard Kurtz, 2010, photo courtesy of the artist

2013, photo by Jennifer Esperanza

As a boy growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Kurtz visited artists’ studios and museums with his mother. From 1978 to 1990 he lived in New York City where he spent a great deal of time around the East Village art scene. He began making art but was struggling financially and picked up part-time work as a limousine driver. The owner of the company had many art-world connections through which Kurtz met such artists as Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whom he deeply admired. In 1985, for health reasons, he began spending the winter months in Mexico where he was exposed to the rich Mexican artistic tradition and to artists such as David Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo who also influenced his style. After years of traveling back and forth between New York and Mexico, in 1990 Kurtz relocated to Taos, New Mexico, where he found a community of artists without the pressure of urban life and he could leave behind the financial difficulty of living in New York. He continues to live in New Mexico and his career has gained momentum since he began showing with a commercial gallery and in several art fairs around the world.

Kurtz’s work has a frenetic energy and bold style that recalls graffiti yet includes a variety of unlikely materials such as glitter, bits of straw, frayed newsprint, sheet music, maps, invoices, and gift cards from stores like Target and Starbucks. Even though he’s not left-handed, he draws with his left hand in an attempt to be more open and connect with the more intuitive side of his brain. On view here are two collaged books in which each page is imbued with vivid color and rich texture repeating a particular type of figure—voluptuous women in lingerie, or gritty boxers ready to fight—often paired with short sayings like “Believe in me,” “Take to the Streets,” or “I’m yourself in someone else.” He commented on the boxer works by stating, “For me, the image of the boxer is a warrior—a hero. We all have to fight to remain conscious and present. It’s like in life, you blink, you lose.”

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