Using bold colors and biomorphic forms, figures and seemingly everyday objects, Elizabeth Murray’s Little Fingers from 2001 pulses with a dynamic sense of vibration and energy. Known for transforming modernist abstraction by redefining the sculptural dimensions of typically traditional mediums, Murray explores abstract movement through layered planes of canvas. In created her “shattered” or “overlapping” canvases, Murray outlines shapes of all sizes and forms on her studio walls covered with sheet bond paper. The shapes that, quite literally, make the cut are then cut from the sheet, laid on pieces of plywood and then re-created in canvas to stretch across these shaped supports. Each finished work can take anywhere from two months to a year to complete as Murray creates these individual shapes without an end vision always in mind. In time, the shapes strewn about the studio come together into a jigsaw puzzle of sorts that will eventually be unified into a finished work. Murray’s work can be seen as drawing from traditional styles such as Surrealism and Cubism but her unique abstract language forms a perfect amalgamation of painting and sculpture completely singular to the artist.
The strong physicality, bright colors and unexpected combinations of shapes that make up Murray’s fragmented canvases have earned her a highly regarded reputation among critics, curators and collectors alike. In 1987, Elizabeth Murray’s first retrospective traveled between the Dallas Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Des Moines Art Center, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Years later in 2005, Murray’s ever evolving oeuvre was reexplored in her second retrospective organized by The Museum of Modern Art in New York, which traveled on to the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in Spain. Murray’s work has been the subject of over eighty solo exhibitions worldwide including the 2003 show at PaceWildenstein in New York titled Elizabeth Murray: Paintings 1999-2003 from which Little Fingers was acquired and has since remained in private hands. In addition to an impressive list of exhibitions and shows, Murray spent time outside of her studio as a professor at schools such as Yale, Princeton, Bard and the School of Visual Arts in New York. This fondness for the development of younger artists stems from her own experiences early on in her career. Murray remarked, “I really feel for younger artists. So many good ones get lost. They can’t push their own work, not according to the art world’s rules. It’s a very tricky situation. I want to encourage young talent. I know what it means if I make a positive comment; I know because I remember how it affected me. And besides, studio discussions keep me on my toes.”
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