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Obituaries

Bruce D. Kurtz, 59; Curator and Critic Focused on Video Art

March 25, 2003|Christopher Knight | Times Staff Writer

In 1992, Kurtz was guest curator for the annual invitational show at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. He also inaugurated the Phoenix Triennial, a survey of contemporary art from Southern California and the Southwest. It featured such prominent Los Angeles artists as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Jill Giegerich and Judie Bamber, while major works by Mike Kelley, Lari Pittman and other artists were acquired for the Phoenix Museum's collection. The 1993 edition, which launched careers for Texans Rick Lowe and Michael Ray Charles, was described by a reviewer for the Arizona Daily Star as "among the most daring shows mounted in the state in years."

Perhaps the most widely known traveling exhibition Kurtz organized was 1992's "Haring-Warhol-Disney," which traced the legacy of mass-media cartoon imagery from Walt Disney in the 1930s through Andy Warhol in the 1960s and on to Keith Haring, a leading graffiti and post-Pop artist of the 1980s. The show built on several ideas that had originated in slightly different form nearly 20 years before in Kurtz's first book. "Spots: The Popular Art of American Television Commercials" examined its pop culture subject through methods of art historical analysis.

Kurtz was also the author of two college textbooks for Prentice Hall: "Visual Imagination: An Introduction to Art," and "Contemporary Art: 1965-1990," the first of its kind to incorporate a large number of Los Angeles artists into the narrative of postwar art.

Kurtz left the Phoenix in 1994 and moved to Paris, where he had taught American students in the 1970s under the auspices of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He returned to Phoenix last summer.

Kurtz is survived by his parents, James and Mary Kurtz, and a brother, Roger, all of Palo Alto, Calif.; and a son, Kreg, of Arlington, Va. A memorial celebration is planned for Thursday at the Phoenix Art Museum.

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