Elizabeth Murray, Moma

Katie and I braved an absurdly overcrowded magic-tree-worshiping Rockefeller Center midtown crowd to check out the Elizabeth Murray show at Moma. The show covered several distinct periods. Some notes:

-Casual, doodle-like use of line as a fundamental design element. These kind of lines have as much to do how the tendons, muscles and bones of the arm and hand want to work as they have to do with the visual effects painters seek to create with this technology. Murray uses the kind of lines and interacting shapes you might fill in semi-consciously on a notepad as you talk on the phone, but she brings this to a epic level.

-Insistence on traditional oil on canvas, but custom molding the canvases into puzzle pieces, often in layers, giving the ground of the paintings a unique sense of freedom -- elements related one way that could just as easily be re-arranged and done another way. It gives her partially hybridized approach - painting pushing into sculpture -- the looseness, quickness, levity and freedom of a doodle or piece of off-the-cuff comic art.

-An interestingly complicated take on coloration. The early stuff -- earthy and subdued, the middle stuff -- bold and raucous clashes, the late stuff -- pull out all the stops visionary integration. Not sure you can call it visionary, though, since this work is sane and is possessed of so much levity. It's an entire class of it's own: cute/visionary?

The work in the final room from 2000-2005 was the most interesting for me. On a large scale yet totally approachable, integrating much of what had come before it. Integration in subject matter -- internal organs, pets, tables, rooms, keyholes -- living quarters inside and out. In patterning -- where the elements work together in a loose but highly coherent kind of co-operation without any part being forced into servitude to a grand scheme. All with a wild coloration that made me think of Huichol visionary yarn painting.

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