If you hopped into a time machine to meet up with artist Kurt Waldo a little more than five years ago, he probably wouldn’t believe you when you explained his success as a contemporary abstract artist.
Waldo’s life included several monumental changes, “almost like a country song,” he told the Sun, including getting fired from a printmaking job at an East Coast university just a few years shy of retirement with benefits; losing the house he bought nearby; putting down the family dog; his mother passing away; a divorce; and some health issues of his own.
Kurt Waldo doesn’t often title his pieces beyond the date they were made, such as this piece showing at the C Gallery, titled 9-9-12, which allows the viewers their own interpretation of each piece.
“I realized what I really liked best about my job, and that was painting,” he said. “I had taken a big break from art after school and having a family, so I just started painting these sets, and my cousin suggested I put them up on Etsy.”
The large—often described as “frenetic”—line gesture pieces Waldo posted on Etsy sold quickly, making an early retirement seem less daunting, he said. His work was included in a popular furniture catalog not long after and his sales really took off—especially from interior decorators and designers.
Commission requests came in from designers throughout the country that designed entire rooms around his paintings, which go quite well in a 1950s and ’60s post-modernist style home or setting.
“It’s essentially a throwback to the ’50s and ’60s, and as far as abstract expressionism goes, that’s my favorite time,” he said. “It’s decorative, it doesn’t make any type of political statement, and it serves as a kind of background to life.”
Just within the last couple years, Waldo’s work was used to help create the New York chic sets on the shows Gossip Girl and The Carrie Diaries, another boon to his business and reputation as an artist of note in the revival of abstract and post-modernist style and design.
Waldo sells many commissioned works to interior decorators, he told the Sun, including pieces used for scenes in the television show 'Gossip Girl.'
Through a chance connection, Waldo became acquainted with Connie Rohde, owner and curator of The C Gallery in Los Alamos, who he casually approached about showing his work.
“He came in one day, didn’t push too hard, and brought some samples, and I just loved it,” Rohde said. “I got to go to his studio a few weeks ago and what an experience that was. He was so unassuming and low key, and when I went into his little studio, there were just piles and piles and piles of paintings on paper, canvases stacked everywhere, and all kinds of prints.”
Waldo’s work opens at the C Gallery on Jan. 16 in the show Shape Distilled to Line, which includes his canvas paintings, paper works, and framed prints showing with the metallic, geometric work of local sculptor Albert McCurdy, a favorite of Rohde’s to show at her gallery.
Rohde herself decided which pieces in Waldo’s collection to show. She curates each show at the gallery, mostly because she knows so well how the space works, and what will fit best in it.
“She is just great,” Waldo said. “What’s interesting is I have no idea what goes together, and I’m inundated with these things. I have over 150 pieces in my studio and it’s kind of overwhelming when people come and look at my stuff because there’s so much of it.”
C is for contemporary
The C Gallery presents the curated exhibit Shape Distilled to Line, which features the work of Kurt Waldo hanging with the sculpture of Albert McCurdy beginning on Jan. 16 with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. at the gallery, 466 Bell St., Los Alamos. More info: 344-3807 or thecgallery.com.
The showcase includes a representative range, Waldo explained, which is a great introduction of his work to Santa Barbara County. He mostly shows in SLO County, at places like the SLO Museum of Art, Novo Restaurant and Lounge, and District 96 Salon.
“These paintings change and morph, and the big thing is to kind of decide when to stop,” he said. “It’s like you’re having a conversation, because you can go too far, and you can’t go back and make it look the way it did before.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne is in a constant state of morphing. Contact him at email@example.com.