Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pace Gallery 534 West 25st Elizabeth murray: painting in the 70's, through April 30th

Elisabeth Murray at Pace Gallery

This is at the other Pace, just down the block a little west of the other gallery on 25th street. It's a beautiful gallery, but because the work is from the collections of a few museums the guards wouldn't let me take any photos of the paintings. Fascists! Consequently the image I have here is not from the show, but from a book I have at home. It's also not a painting from the 70's.
That said,Elizabeth Murray, who died just a few years ago, is an artist who's gotten a lot of attention ever since the early 80's. In fact she received a retrospective a few years before she died at the MOMA. Personally I don't think that it's nearly as much attention as she should get, or will get in the future. She was a really great painter, and a very important late modernist whose artistic contributions have yet to be fully appreciated. Well, I appreciate them, but I mean everyone else. In her relationship to the cubists, and the abstract expressionists I see her as kind of a female Frank Stella. They were both a generation removed, and the way she literally shattered the rectangle of the picture plane was similar to the way he did, but she seems to have had more fun doing it. Her work is more playful and organic than his, and she seemed willing to allow her paintings to be pretty. That's not something you can say about most abstractionists, and there's something that seems distinctly feminine about it. Some people might think that's a sexist thing to say, but hey, if you have a problem with it, you know where I live.
This show focuses on the 70's. which is particularly interesting, because it's the time when Murray was just deciding to physically disrupt the surface and framework of her paintings. She was also just starting to recognize a relationship, and establish a dialogue between the internal and external space of her work. The show chronicles how she became more aware of the physical integrity of the paint and the surface of the painting. You can see then, how she morphed and fractured the surface of her work so that image and object became one. She ended up making distinct and original paintings that are both intelligent, and wildly imaginative. The show serves as a valuable record of one artists curiosity, and courage.

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