press release

In the tradition of American landscape painting, artists have defined a relationship with a particular place in a variety of ways, often combining factual details with fanciful longings and emotional overtones. Adding to this rich history, New York-based artist Kurt Lightner creates densely layered and magnificently detailed collages that depict real and imaginary landscapes of the five acres of woods behind his childhood home in Ohio. Selected works by Lightner are featured in the exhibition Kurt Lightner: Five Acres, on view February 3–April 2, 2006 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Museum admission is free.

Kurt Lightner: Five Acres is Lightner’s first solo museum exhibition, and he is a visiting artist at the Kemper Museum. The exhibition marks the beginning of the Verve series, a new series that highlights emerging trends and ideas in contemporary art.

Lightner infuses the genre of nature painting with the contemporary feel of collage. Composed of hundreds of elements that have been painted on Mylar with acrylic ink and then individually cut out by hand, his works are brimming with color and energy; light penetrates and ricochets through the dense layers of translucent material, creating a sense of depth and space. “I want the viewer to be immersed in the image. Just like the dense woods one can get lost in,” Lightner explained in an essay that accompanies the exhibition.

Like the visionary watercolors of Modernist painter Charles Burchfield, another Ohio native who found inspiration in its countryside, the fantastical shapes, colors and detailed layering of Lightner’s landscapes reflect his memories—in his case, as a child looking for unusual plants and objects in the woods behind his home. Exuding both vitality (bright, wildly colorful images) and melancholy (dark, dense forests), Lightner’s works expand on both his childhood joys of discovering and exploring nature and his increasing uncertainty about the future of his family farm and the adjacent woodlands. “Lightner continually mines his intimate knowledge of the unmythologized Midwestern surroundings of his past, and cloaks it in a veil of mood, emotion, and nostalgia,” said Elizabeth Dunbar, curator at the Kemper Museum.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1971, Kurt Lightner lives and works in New York. He received his BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio, and his MFA from the School of the Visual Arts, New York. He has had a solo exhibition at Clementine Gallery, New York, and his work has been included in such notable group exhibitions as Greater New York at PS1/MoMA and Queens International 2004 at the Queens Museum of Art, both in New York.

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Kurt Lightner: Five Acres