Kay Kurt (b. 1944) is a New Realist painter of large-scale confections. Her candies lay the foundation of her compositions, structuring her canvases abstractly, and freeing her to meditate on content. As Richard Hamilton, Robert Watts and Claes Oldenburg also used candies as subject matter — and she often enlarges the scale tenfold, like a billboard — Kurt’s work became associated with Pop Art early on. The scale of the Pop Art movement opened Kurt’s eyes to the possibility of a new vision based on objects instead of landscape.
Typical candies featured in her body of work include Licorice, Bon Bons, Jordan Almonds, Jujubes and Gummi Bears. She chooses and collects these candies from various countries, being specifically interested in those of German origin, which reflect the values, attitudes, and cultures associated with the people who produce them. She does not used mediated or advertising images like the Pop Artists, nor photographs like the Photorealists. These paintings are developed through observation. Kurt prefers painting generic-looking candy, as the luxurious ones are too refined for her taste. The sole instance of exquisite candy in her oeuvre is a Godiva chocolate box painting that she made for a friend. Her choice of subject reflects her interest in mass production and consumer culture around the world.
Compulsive and exacting to an extreme, Kurt can take years to complete a canvas. As the 1980s progressed, Kurt gradually found herself excluded from the New York art world where she had found acclaim for over a decade. Although never giving up on her painting practice, she almost completely withdrew from the public eye and it was not until her inclusion in the 2010 traveling exhibition, Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968 presented at the Brooklyn Museum, that her work was re-introduced.
Hallelujah (1995-2016) is part of the exhibit Kay Kurt: For All Her Innocent Airs, She Knew Exactly Where She Was Going, on view through February 16th, 2017 at Albertz Benda Gallery, Located at 515 West 26th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.