“Her Story”: Prints by Elizabeth Murray, 1986–2006 includes all 42 of the groundbreaking editions made at New York’s Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) from 1986, when she first created prints there, through the last two decades of her prolific career. Primarily drawn from a private collection, this comprehensive selection of prints has never before been shown as a group.
When is a cup not a cup? When it's part of one of Murray's baroque cartoon 3-dimensional pieces.
"Cracking Cup." 1998l Three dimensional lithograph. Publiced by Universal Limited Art Editions,
Born Chicago in 1940, Murrray earned a BFA at the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California. She died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 67. The show at the Cantor is her first West coast retrospective.
A pioneer in painting, Murray’s distinctively shaped canvases break with the art-historical tradition of illusionistic space in two-dimensions. Jutting out from the wall and sculptural in form, Murray’s paintings and watercolors playfully blur the line between the painting as an object and the painting as a space for depicting objects. The colors are loud, the references are to household objects, body parts, comic book symbols and images created solely by her imagination. Part surrealist, part sculptor, Murray followed her own muse through decades of art world trends.
Her early still lifes are reminiscent of paintings by masters such as Cézanne, Picasso, and Matisse; however, even then, she was attempting to rejuvenate old art forms and incorporate them into her own vocabulary.
Murray’s paintings are abstract compositions rendered in bold colors and multiple layers of paint, sometimes clumsy, with the paint dripping off the edges. The mess reveals a fascination and understanding of domestic life in all its chaos, both physical and psychological.
She digested an extraordinary number of influences on her way to her mature style. Early on it was DeKooning's abstracton "Excavation."
She once told Michael Kimmelman, the chief art critic of The New York Times, that "I would leave my painting classes sometimes and run upstairs to the galleries to check out that painting, and literally dash back with it visualized in my mind to try to replicate that stroke on canvas."
In the late 60's, it was Guston's bean shapes, parading as figurative painting. Ron Gorchov's saddle paintings of the mid-70's and Frank Stella whose geometric shapes and oversized canvasas influenced her first attempts at shaped canvas. She has described wanting so much to belong to the New York art world when she came to the city that for a while she struggled to reconcile herself to Minimalism and abstraction. "But the effect," she has said, "was to disguise my interest in subject matter."
You could consider her a maker of stews, albiet of the artistic sort. But no matter how many dashes of the various influences she put into the work, it always emerged inimitably hers.