Christopher Kurtz

The Traveller cannot see North but knows the Needle can

13 July – 1 September 2019
PREVIEW: 12 July 6.30 – 9.30pm
TALK: Wrong end of the stick? The muddied waters between craft, design and fine art – what is the difference and does it matter?
Saturday 13 July


The telescopic scale of the works and their sublime grandeur of conception, position them outside of human interest. The mental space they open up is bigger than that – as big, in fact, as space itself.     Glenn Adamson, May 2019                                                 

Christopher Kurtz first showed at Messums Wiltshire as part of Material: Wood in the summer of 2018 and his participation – alongside his stellar talk on his work and evolution in to one of the most exciting makers working in wood – resulted in an invitation to create a solo response to our thirteenth century barn. On show this summer and consisting of a series of fine wooden constellations suspended just above the floor, Christopher’s new sculptures explore the push and pull between craftsmanship, sculpture, design and fine art as a single installation that celebrates his chosen material.

Christopher is a master of handcrafted wood – in his hands it takes on a supple and almost biomorphic quality. Raised in Missouri he studied both sculpture and landscape architecture before assisting Martin Puryear (who is representing America at this years Venice Biennale) where he played a pivotal role in fashioning Puryear’s sculptures. Like is former mentor, Christopher’s works are highly intelligent in their use of material and formally inventive. He is fascinated by form – both traditional and modernist – and takes inspiration from architecture and furniture design as much as he does from nature and recognises no difference between ‘art’ and ‘design’. Indeed he adopts the same artistic approach and dedication to pieces that are fantastical as he would to those that are functional.

Glenn Adamson – Senior Scholar at the Yale Centre for British Art and author of Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018) – describes Christopher’s work as “magic,” going on to say: “Yet another resonance, still more fundamental, is that with the human body. Encountering an array of Kurtz’s sculptures, one is immediately struck by their varied postures. They are like so many dancers on stage, or fencers with rapiers drawn, en garde. Each has its own unique and characterful stance: a radiating burst; a slow spiral; a drastic asymmetry; a single intersection, source code for all the others. Some of the compositions are systematic, with modules that repeat. Others more individuated in their parts. All, however, are worked out intuitively at the bench, each angle a matter of improvisation. Even the overall orientation, determined by the axis of suspension, is open to question until the works are completed. And even then, they spin with the slightest current of air, rotating like the celestial bodies they so strongly evoke.”

The vast scale of the barn presents the perfect backdrop to these new works – physically slight, composed of slim limbs of linden wood, each constellation is tapered with a drawknife before being joined together into converging vertexes – the sculpture then covered with white milk paint to create a seamless surface. Christopher is one of leading lights of a body of makers from up state New York that have been dubbed ‘the Hudson River school of Wood sculpture’ – his skill at rendering pieces so thin that they challenge the tensile strength of their material as well as the wits of their maker.

He has gained international attention with his sculpture and studio furniture and is included in several public and private collections and has been awarded the New York Foundation For the Arts (NYFA) Award (Lily Auchincloss fellow).



Christopher Kurtz (born 1975) grew up in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He studied sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute (1994-95), Landscape Architecture at The GSD at Harvard University (Career Discovery Program) (’98) and received a BFA in sculpture from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York (’98). After college, he went on to work as the studio assistant to artist Martin Puryear. While working with Puryear, Christopher refined his woodworking skills and began maturing as an artist.

In 2005 Christopher set up his own studio in the Hudson Valley of New York State. In 2008 he expanded his studio practice to include studio furniture in addition to sculpture, where the two practices blur the lines between functional work and poetic conceptual statements. He has gained international attention with his sculpture and studio furniture and is included in several public and private collections. Christopher exhibits regularly in group exhibitions, solo shows, and Art Fairs around the world. He has been included in traveling museum exhibitions which include, “Loewe Craft Prize 2018” at The Design Museum, London; “Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design” at The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in New York City.

Christopher has received numerous grants and awards and was recently selected as a finalist for the highly competitive Loewe International Craft Prize in 2018. He received the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award in 2005, and in 2007 he received a New York Foundation For the Arts (NYFA) Award (Lily Auchincloss fellow).