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Design

The wonderful wizard of wood- Christopher Kurtz

December 24, 2018

Pavilion sculpture, 72 x 48 x 48 inches. Hand-carved in 2018 from tulipwood.

This hand-carved tulipwood “stool” has a green paint finish. the details are based on the design esthetics of Windsor furniture. This large “Pavilion” sculpture was part of Kurtz’s recent solo exhibition, “Sculptures of Furniture: A Windsor Alphabet” at Patrick Parrish Gallery in New York City.

Image courtesy of: 1st Dibs

In an upstate New York workshop, magical handcrafting in the form of wood “furniture” takes place. Christopher Kurtz’s medium is wood and what he builds is usually a unique combination of construction and carving. With an unparalleled devotion to craftsmanship, Kurtz has quickly become a favorite among architects and interior designers.

Christopher Kurtz’s 6 foot tall Pavilion stool is as beautiful from underneath as it is from the top. The attention to detail is a true mark of Kurtz’s work. Nothing is industrially milled, every single piece is made by hand.

Image courtesy of: Modern Magazine, photographed by: Clemens Kois

Growing up in a farming community outside Kansas City, Missouri; Kurtz is the son of artists. His father was a longtime instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute where Kurtz got the opportunity to “grow up” on campus. He says that he “literally watched people make full-body plaster molds of themselves”. As a student in the late 1990’s, art education was less about making objects and more about making works that engaged community activism.

Kurtz’s large “Pavilion” stool in the background, and the red-milk painted “Saddle” table in front.

Image courtesy of: Modern Magazine, photographed by: Clemens Kois

Earlier this year, Kurtz put on a solo show at Patrick Parrish Gallery called “Sculptures of Furniture: A Windsor Alphabet”. Referencing the iconic 18th-century Birdcage Windsor chair, the form is dissected and parts are inverted and rearranged. This philosophy is intended to force us to question our relationship with objects as they exist within our environment.

Over the past few years, Kurtz has gained international attention, both for his sculpture and for his studio furniture. For good reason, he has become a sought-after artisan for commissioned pieces.

Christopher Kurtz’s Hudson Valley studio which he opened in 2008.

Image courtesy of: 1st Dibs

Kurtz has a “way” with wood… he says, “For the most part, I don’t see much difference. I use the same tools whether I’m making something fantastical and poetic or designing a very functional chair.” It’s the juxtaposition between the two facets that makes his work so unique.

His extensive education allowed him to form a style that’s distinctly his own. After art school, Kurtz enrolled in a summer landscape architecture program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. It was a show about Gio Ponti, the mid-century Italian furniture maestro, that opened his eyes to viewing design as a collectible and not just as a product.

“Singularity”, 2013. Harnd carved from basswood, milk paint. 81 x 144 x 36 inches.

Joined and hand-crafted from multiples of square stock basswood. Carved with chisels, gouges, knives, hand planes, spokeshaves, and miniature violin maker carving tools.

Image courtesy of: Wood Revisited

 

Following graduation, Kurtz spent five years at Martin Puryear’s studio honing in on the traditional craft of woodcrafting. Working alongside this American pioneer enhanced Kurtz’s appreciation for all that wood can produce.

With his technique solidified and the beginnings of a mature artist emerging, Kurtz enlisted milk paint as a way to further leave his mark. Milk paint has recently seen a resurgence in popularity due to its environmentally-friendly and non-toxic ingredients. This gorgeous pigment binder was often used in colonial times; but there has been reference to it being made in ancient Egypt.

Study his sculptural furniture pieces closely and you’ll see that they are masterful and entirely well-deserving of all the attention they’ve recently been receiving!

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