Elizabeth Murray’s distinctively shaped sculptural canvases have made a bold departure from the mainstream two-dimensional painterly tradition. This pioneer painter rejuvenated the art form of older masters such as Picasso and Matisse. She eliminated the difference between a painting as an “object” versus a painting as a “space” for defining objects. Her canvases are filled with familiar household objects—like cups, utensils, chairs and tables—coupled with cartoonish depictions of figures and eyeballs. Murray’s genius managed to carry off this seemingly macabre juxtaposition with an almost playful delight. In totality Murray’s painting must be viewed as abstract composition of bold color and multiple layers of paint. It is within the complexity of the detailed imagery, however, that Murray’s fascination with the psychological context of domestic life is revealed.
Murray was born in Chicago in 1940 and received her B.F.A. at the Art institute of Chicago. She received her M.F.A. from Mills College in Oakland, California. She taught at Bard College and held numerous visiting faculty appointments at institutions including Yale, Princeton and the New York Studio School.
Murray’s work has been the subject of nearly 60 international solo exhibitions including the Venice Biennial of 2007. Her debut exhibition was at the Whitney in 1972. Since then she has participated in six Whitney Biennial exhibitions. In 1987-88, a major retrospective of her work was jointly organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This exhibition consequently traveled throughout the United States. Murray was the recipient of many awards, including the Skowhegan Medal in Painting and a MacArthur Foundation Award. Her work is included in over 40 public collections in the U.S. including the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.