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 Bruce Kurland  (1938 - 2013)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: chiaroscuro still life paintings

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Still Life Pears, Basket and Shell
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following are comments by Randall, Weber, friend of Bruch Kurland.

Bruce Kurland(1938 - 2013), a friend, and fellow painter was a magical and very direct person and artist, deeply attuned to nature and contemporary visual allusions. To me, his paintings and watercolors represented their own natural world of meaning and beauty; the painted surface's of his still life paintings glow inwardly like precious jewels and his subject matter is lively with iconic metaphors exploring mortality and decay. 

To me, his paintings were like memorials to death, decay and the sublime beauty of nature. I remember seeing him working on a composition depicting a coke bottle, standing monumentally as a vase containing a magnolia branch with blossoms and leaves. Over the branch and bottle's lip was draped with a long almost dripping piece of raw bacon, The objects were all dynamically balanced in a dark enigmatic space. I remember it reminding of Bruce's Jewishness with its sense of reverence for life and of mortality.
 
Bruce was an avid and keen outdoorsman from which activities, such as hunting and fishing, he drew upon nature for life's energy and visual inspiration. Once, Bruce cooked a Brown and Brook Trout especially for me at his country home/studio in Curriers, NY. He wanted to share with me the difference in the contrasting tastes. Later that day, Bruce, myself and artist Suzanne Ross romped and frolicked playfully with his three daughters, Hanna, Justine and Yeta, under a large ancient Willow Tree(?) equipped with a old rickety swing hung from frayed weathered ropes, in the field beside the house. The views across the way on any side were of planted fields to the horizon, several old red barns and storage silos stood slightly bent a mile or two down the gravel road. The next American Gothic styled house was a mile and a half away on the next hill.

My memories of this Time remind me significantly of the Idyllic images of photographer Justine Kurland, his middle daughter. I also remember him assembling and binding trout fishing flies in his studio where a mysterious gray-brown atmosphere pervaded the country room and made everything look as if it existed in Chiaoscuro. The room contained dimly lit hand-carved duck decays, fishing gear, wading boots, hunting clothes and a 12-gage shotgun leaning against a board wall. That same feeling and light existed in many of his paintings. His studio was always dark and smoky except for the intense contrasting light coming from a window facing north. It was here by the sash window that he sat for endless hours, smoking and crafting his hardboard paintings. I remember my experiences with Bruce as being very memorable and inspirational, and I also felt I was somehow transported back a century or two. Also, there was the time when Suzanne Ross, sister artist, introduced me to Bruce over a meal. Suzanne kept telling me about a painter whom she had met who painted a house fly so realistically that she was afraid she would get germs from it and that it could actually fly. When I finally met Bruce, we bonded like two young boys who found out that each shared a fondness for the same "dirty" unmentionable things of nature.
 
I used to drive out to Curriers from Buffalo to fill jugs of water from his well, that was, if I agreed to not bother him while he  painting. I was there to gather and drink the healing well water, not to spy on him, although there may have been a smidgeon of doubt in him. Bruce did not like anyone seeing an unfinished painting of his. Other memories are when Bruce chastised me for not understanding nor using the "principles of painting" in my work; Bruce was a very scientific painter, after all, he did study at the Art student's League in the early 50's around the same time as the rebellious Abstract Expressionists, by which Bruce's technique and subject matter were not directly effected in the least. Bruce was a very emotional man tempered by his extreme passion, discipline and the method/process of his work. He was a master and his paintings are in a league with the great masters of Still Life Genre Painting. The many paintings he has left behind are profound in their symbolism and their own raison d"etre. His paintings are primarily remarkable for their beauty and Bruce is remarkable for having painted them and giving them up to the world. Bruce and I both agreed that much of contemporary art lacks a main essential element - beauty.
 
Although, my work is not at all in the same genre as Bruce's fine oil paintings, there was a very brief time, when Bruce and I influenced each other's technique and subject matter. He painted several paintings reminiscent of the collage work I was experimenting with at that time. Bruce thought my painting had a somewhat humorous aspect. During that period he painted a bi-pedal(strolling) Dill Pickle, In another painting that I remember, he depicted a branch of Magnolia blossoms by collaging printed images of glamorous female lips representing Magnolia petals.  He used White Lead to adhere the printed lips onto the hardboard. I thought that it was his genius at work the way he included contemporary visual motif's using his masterly, luscious painted surfaces. Bruce was able to achieve these jewel like surfaces by using an oil painting medium called Megilp which historically is a mixture of mastic varnish and an oil medium, sometimes the oil medium is Linseed oil cooked with white lead. It allows oil paint to have a relatively short drying time, have a glossy surface(or add wax for a dull surface) and it is easy to paint with. It especially allows the artist to paint long thin lines(ex. hair) when called for and it allows thin transparent layers to be built up on the painted surface allowing for a surface appearing to have depth. Bruce often had to wait long periods for one layer to dry before applying another even when using Megilp. This was to the chagrin of one collector/patron who paid Bruce a monthly stipend in order to claim his output for a agreed upon period. The patron/collector felt Bruce's output was doggedly slow particularly while their agreement lasted. The patron felt slighted by the fact that he only took 15 masterpieces away in the deal. I guess he felt that if Bruce had been an Abstract Expressionist he would have walked away with more than twice as many.

Bruce's work had a profound influence on my work for a short time, I tried to paint like him and maybe that was what he found humorous at the time. He used to chuckle when he'd see one of my paintings. I never took it as an insult because sometimes we'd both laugh together. Eventually we went back to using our own visual vocabulary. Bruce went onward stressing the mortality of nature, its vulnerability to time and the aging effects of change. I was unfortunate to not see what Bruce painted during his final years. Once Bruce recommended me as an artist of note in Western New York to a nearby museum. The curator and a student intern turned up at my studio door one day, found me curled up, lying on the floor in a sleeping bag, They looked tediously around the studio with their noses skyward and dismissed me on the spot as having nothing worth looking at or talking about and haughtily left. I was suffering and convalescing from cancer and hadn't painted for months. It was 1979.

Ran(dall) Webber

 

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is the artist's obituary, submitted by Ran Webber, friend of Bruce Kurland.

American still-life painter Bruce Kurland died on December 11, 2013 in Buffalo, New York following a long illness. Born on May 16, 1938 in the Bronx, Kurland studied at the Art Students League of New York from 1959–1961 and at the National Academy School of Fine Arts from 1961–1963.

Kurland began showing his work in New York City galleries in the mid-1960s and was later represented by Joan Washburn, Claude Bernard, and Victoria Munroe. His work is housed in private collections in the United States and Europe and is featured at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and other university collections.

Kurland was initially influenced by early European practitioners of the still-life genre such as Fabritius, Chardin, and Morandi, whose quiet reveries he inflected with a contemporary vision of mortality. Kurland infused his paintings with a powerful attention to, and tangible affection for, nature 'red in tooth and claw,' conjuring “a little world with which I could do anything I wanted."

A monograph of his work has been published by Avocet Editions and is available through Artbook|DAP.

Kurland is survived by three daughters, Hannah Kurland, Yetta Kurland, and Justine Kurland; two grandchildren, Vita Kurland and Casper McCorkle; and his former wife Toni Lamberti. A memorial service will be held in New York City in January. In lieu of flowers, scholarship donations may be sent in Kurland’s name to the Art Students League of New York at 215 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019.

Online Source:
"Bruce A. Kurland Obituary", ObitsforLife.com, //www.obitsforlife.com/obituary/817545/Kurland-Bruce.php

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