On first viewing of Richard Kurtz’s magnificent painting, Invulnerable, with its white figure embedded in a predominantly green field broken by bleeding reds and black handprints, I thought immediately of Henri Rousseau’s La Guerre. Yet instead of a demon-angel wielding a sword and riding ragged through the all-consuming chaos, Kurtz offers, at the heart of this sublime vision, a vibrational being with ears like antennae: fragile, attentive, radiant. To the left and below, there are two other iterations of this magical creature, one fully implicated in — imprinted by! —- the grief and agony of the reds and blacks, the other melting/decomposing into the blues of a thickly layered woundscape. A single dictum, the world as a network of events floats above, while found images encrusted on either side of the “rabbit ears” suggest both technology gone amok and the imminence of extinction. Kurtz challenges us to consider where we stand in relation to this endlessly unfolding network of events; how we both embody and transcend our signature repetitions of violence and obliteration. While remaining attuned to the world, how do we tune our selves — our souls?
The work of Richard Kurtz is both light-hearted and vicious, simultaneously an ode to childlike wonder and a poetic punch to the solar plexus of the body electric. “Be your hero,” the boxers say, “and defend something,” but the hero’s value is not tethered to the trappings of the physical world. The canvas bags on which these boxers are painted were historically filled with money, with purchasing power and the shared hallucinations that accompany desire, but Kurtz ornaments them with literal and figurative reminders that our true power lies elsewhere. These works are an injunction to transform into harmless puppies and tamed lions all the intersecting maladies that make our species cough and wretch in unison, all of the unreasonable cultural demands, the fears, the cynicism, the fictions we absorb. Kurtz is fighting with each artistic mark, and while gazing upon his boxers, one cannot help but feel the need to lace up the gloves, shoulder the unprecedented burdens of modern life, and champion the principles that can turn losers into winners in an instant. Make a sword and a shield of love, reverence, balance, and forgiveness, and stare into the madness of the world as a fighter would stare. Love fiercely, and gnash your teeth gracefully, with your whole heart.
And the Whole Earth . . .
Rich Kurtz gives you the whole story, the full Figure in End Time, inscribed with what might be the last line of a bitter gospel, a prophecy holding only so much hope as you give it. The heartless thing before us, a frame of black sticks and aggrieved white mask, totters in extremis; dying, if it ever lived, just as the chaos hits and everything ends. But note the last moment’s fundamental order – the framing blacks, the interior blues, the abiding greens, cheerful pinks; land, sea, and sky returned to first principles in the unifying blast. We see it all at once, and, wanting to know more, look again: a circle.
The work of Richard Kurtz can be found in numerous private and public collections including, Audrey Heckler, Sophie Calle, Blake Byrne,
Maurice Renoma, The Blanchard-Hill Collection, The Museum of Everything and the de Young Museum. He has shown with Laura Steward
at the Paris and New York Outsider Fairs and with Esperanza Projects at The 2018 New York Outsider Art Fair and at Art Palm Springs.
His work has been included in such notable shows as Faces and Figures in Self Taught Art at Vassar College and My Big Black America
at the Corridor Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.
For further information, please contact Jennifer Esperanza.