MECHANICS OF THE HUMAN BODY

Krunningat Uni of Graz

Photograph of Karl Spreitz and teammates cross country training at the University of Graz, Austria (late 1940s)

Physical Education was not Spreitz’s first vocation of choice, but he embraced the program at Graz University after failing the entrance examination for art school. While a student, he became the coach of the Sports and Union Track and Field team.  The team’s significant progress under his leadership contributed to Spreitz earning a position as Assistant Coach to the Women’s Olympic Team of Austria. He filmed the Olympic team’s track and field events and became fascinated with the way the camera could break down body movements into sequences. This awareness of body mechanics translated into his figural artwork. Art writer Brian Grison described how, “Ninety-eight per cent of his work is of the human figure in a situation of stress, caught up in some kind of strange machinery, or strange perspective, with architectural elements absorbing the body, breaking it up, segmenting it.” 1

Karl Spreitz. Untitled; Single Figure, Line Drawing, 1975. Pen and ink on paper.

“Untitled; Single Figure, Line Drawing,” 1975
Pen and ink on paper 34.00 x 38.00
Gift of Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic

Spreitz’s exposure to fabrication and manufacturing processes also influence how the human form is broken into movable, mechanized parts in his art. His early industry experiences after immigrating to Canada included working as a plastic extruder at General Tire where he collaborated with rubber chemist Jim Brown to design the first successful plastic refrigerator door gasket. This manufacturing experience, coupled with his technological savvy for computer graphics programs, video capture, and editing processes, show how Spreitz translated his creativity across varied and unexpected fields.

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