Robert Courtright’s curiosity about historical architecture began in his hometown library in Sumter, South Carolina. Following studies at St. John’s College and the New School for Social Research, Courtright enrolled at New York’s Art Students League, where he was instructed by Jack Levine, Robert Brackman, Carl Holty, and Vaclav Vytlacil. His continued fascination with architectural science and aesthetics drew him to Rome in 1953, where he first began to create the collages for which he is most widely known.
Courtright’s architectural collages, which often incorporate scraps of paper pulled directly from actual structures, dominated the artist’s oeuvre in the 1960s. These pieces eventually inspired the artist’s series of non-representational grid collages, “works of art that combine color and texture in visual patterns using paper and acrylic paint mounted to wood panels,” which he began to pursue in the 1970s. The artist and critic J. Bowyer Bell offered this observation of Courtright’s grids: “The real visual drama is . . . in the perception of each viewer. The grid merges into the whole, color moves across the surface, differences in intensity appear . . . an image rises from the squares, from the object. There is nothing minimal, nothing cold, nothing as exercise in the ultimate image. Each is an adventure for the eye.” In the following decades, Courtright began to sculpt masks—or “faces"—executed in marble, stone, cast bronze, and cast paper.
Courtright’s work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Phillips Collection, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.