San Francisco

Stefan Kürten

Rena Bransten Gallery

Stefan Kürten’s paintings are slight, self-effacing, but nonetheless wise. Many of them are small, less than 12 inches square, and are strewn with homey, literally thumbnail-size sketches. Kürten’s subjects are generic, as his titles suggest: Jewelry, Hearts, Sperm, and Eggs, 31 Sunsets, Beauty Supplies, Bar Codes, etc. (all works 1990). Blithely, he makes the point that the daily glut of media images ultimately trivializes the image generally.

Kürten’s method and the visual quality it generates are crucial. To make a picture, he takes a primed, stretched canvas and sets it face down on a coated lithographer’s stone. Then he draws on the back of the canvas with a pencil; this pressure causes ink to adhere to the primed surface. The tooth of the canvas gives his image a delicate, grainy quality that resembles the impress of rubber stamps, full of material detail, yet representationally and

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