Joseph Kurhajec Biography

Joseph Kurhajec




Sculptor, painter, and printmaker Joseph Kurhajec was born in Racine, Wisconsin in 1938. After receiving his MFA in Studio Arts from the Universaity of Wisconsin in 1961, Kurhajec traveled to the Yucatan for two months to study Mayan art and culture, which would prove to be a continual source of inspiration. On his return to the United States he opened his own gallery in Racine, called The New Generation Group, where he began creating his three-dimensional pieces he titled "mummified art," using various materials to create distorted, organic figures like the fetishes he had seen on his travels. He soon connected with other avant-garde, expressionist artists dubbed the "monster roster," such as Richard Hunt, Leon Golub, and Richard Stankiewicz.

In 1963, he relocated to New York and began creating and exhibiting larger works. He held his first solo exhibition at the Allan Stone Gallery in 1963 and in 1965 he was invited to participate in the Whitney Museum's "Young America 1965" exhibition. By the end of the 1960s he had also begun to explore the dimensional possibilities in printmaking; his prints took on textured surfaces borrowed from nature with the use of collagraphic techniques, using animal furs and hair, scales, and other organic materials to create new forms on the sheet.

Throughout the 1970s Kurhajec began exhibiting and working internationally, spending much of his time in Rome and creating works that began to take on his political stances, with particular focus on his disastisfaction with U.S. and other major power players' overseas policies that he found destructive. The ideas became monumental, and to address the scope of his vision, he began learning how to forge iron. 

Kurhajec has exhibited his work throughout the U.S. and abroad. He divides his time between New York, the Yucatan, and Paris.