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Parrish Art Museum opens new building in Water Mill with Malcolm Morley exhibition
Malcolm Morley, Kites over Miami, 2006. Watercolor on paper, 31 3/16 x 38 ½. Collection of Mr. Charles-Antoine van Campenhout and Mr. Risteard Keating, New York.

WATER MILL, NY.- Malcolm Morley: Painting, Paper, Process, an exhibition of some 50 works from the 1980s to the present, inaugurated the temporary exhibition galleries of the new Parrish Art Museum when it opened to the public Saturday, November 10, 2012, in Water Mill, NY. Organized by Alicia G. Longwell, Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator, Art and Education, the exhibition will remain on view through January 13, 2013.

At the same time, the Museum unveiled an installation of works from its outstanding permanent collection for the first time in its 115-year history. Ranging in date from the 19th century to the present, the Parrish’s holdings include more than 2,600 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by many of America’s most influential artists. Selections have been installed in the 7,600 square-foot collection galleries.

For more than 40 years, the art of Malcolm Morley has heightened viewers’ perceptions and expanded the possibilities for ways of seeing. Little explored until now is the seminal role of paper in his art-making process, whether as watercolors that serve as sources for paintings, scale models made of paper and attached to the canvas, or in the dimensionality of free-standing paper sculpture. Explains Longwell, “Painting, Paper, Process will illustrate the artist’s working method while underscoring the seamless transition among paper mediums, including watercolor, lithography, etching, and monotype, and the dazzling passages of these inventive forays.”

In the mid-1960s, Morley, newly arrived in New York from his native England, resolved to take on a big subject and chose to paint a large ocean liner berthed at a West Side pier. Attempting to set up a canvas, he realized that it was impossible to take in the enormous ship from one viewpoint, and he wound up buying a postcard of the subject to use as the model. “I went down with a canvas to paint a ship from life,” he recalled. “Then I got a postcard of a ship. The postcard was the object.”

In this way, Morley resolved for himself the issue of what to paint. Throughout his career, he has recognized that ready-made images drawn from sources as disparate as newspaper, glossy magazine, and his own watercolors, and paper models that he often fabricates himself, furnish ready inspiration. Images appear and reappear in his work, surfacing in different contexts, as Morley cycles through an ever-changing lexicon—in a way defying the viewer to focus on the subject of the work.

Consequently, Morley has never been known for what could be called a signature style. He explains, “As soon as something I do is accepted and successful, I have to change it. You only really succeed by taking risks, and the artist who’s interesting has to invent them.”

Malcolm Morley: Painting, Paper, Process brings together works that have rarely been seen together and includes such diverse images as idyllic beach scenes; the artist’s beloved black and white border collie, Elsa, in play and repose; and knights in armor, WWII flying aces, and their present day inheritors, the sports stars who carry on the legacy of derring do. “I decided that this was contemporary mythology, and the sports stars were the heroes,” Morley says. “To be a hero, you have to take a risk, so of course the best ones are those that risk their lives—NASCAR drivers and people like that.” Ring of Fire (2009), the life-size, freestanding sculpture of a Motocross rider, is composed of heavyweight watercolor paper on an armature of plastic plumbing pipe. The “mud” on the piece is a mixture of paint and papier mâché flung with a toilet brush. “You can do a lot of things with paper,” Morley has said, “and I always think of sculpture as something in two dimensions that’s folded.”

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November 19, 2012

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