Christopher Kurtz’s dynamic ‘Spiked Sculptures’ catch energy mid-motion, exploding outwards into space like fireworks or sparks of light. Hung from the ceiling or balanced precariously on the floor, long forms are tapered into fine, needle-sharp points that seem to glide or whizz through the air at breakneck speed, crossing into and over one another to form dizzyingly complex webs of movement and light.
Although they appear light and elemental, Kurtz creates these sculptures through a painstakingly slow, hard-won method, making everything by hand so he can enjoy a close relationship with materials. Many of his ‘Spiked Sculptures’ are made from wood, a humble substance he finds great pleasure in manipulating with simple, traditional techniques that have existed for centuries. “The process I use would look very familiar to the craftsperson of 100 years ago,” he observes. He has also discovered how making by hand offers greater flexibility and freedom than any machine-made technique, noting how “The human hand is still infinitely more complex than any multi axis CNC machine— so I continue to work wood by hand—not to be nostalgic, but because the result is much more nuanced and spontaneous for me.”
Kurtz pushes the possibilities of wood in surprising and unexpected directions, painstakingly chiseling, whittling and carving it into long, elegant sticks that are as enticingly sharp as spears. These are meticulously joined into complex arrangements and painted white, transforming wood’s heavy solidity into wispy streaks of light and air. Kurtz translates this same elemental and fragile weightlessness into his spiked metal sculptures, which echo the jagged, angular forms of his wood constructions, but with a glossy, polished surface that catches and refracts the light.
Energy and motion are central tenets in the design of Kurtz’s sculptures, as he experiments with how varying arrangements and directions of line invoke differing sensations in the viewer. Some form celestial bursts of light with a dizzying array of white streaks, while others feature only a few linking arms that support each other in space. In more minimal works just a few white shards reach upwards like the wings of a bird soaring gracefully through the sky, while those made from flat groups of bunched together strings seem to charge past us at turbo speed.
Kurtz’ sculptures are also highly responsive to the architectural space around them, adapting and changing depending on where they are seen and how they are displayed. There is an unexpected element of surprise that magically appears once these sculptures are left alone to their own devices, and can respond intuitively to the changing light, shadow and atmospheric effects of their surroundings.