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Unprecedented exhibition of works by Elizabeth Murray opens at Cantor Arts Center
Elizabeth Murray (U.S.A., 1940–2007), Cracking Cup, 1998. Three-dimensional lithograph, 34-1/2 x 39-3/4 x 2 in. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. © 1988. The Murray-Holman Family Trust/ Universal Limited Art Editions.

STANFORD, CA.- Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center presents a unique exhibition of works by Elizabeth Murray (1940–2007), considered one of the nation’s most important postmodernist abstract artists. “Her Story”: Prints by Elizabeth Murray, 1986–2006 includes all 42 of the groundbreaking editions made at New York’s Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) from 1986, when she first created prints there, through the last two decades of her prolific career. Primarily drawn from a private collection, this comprehensive selection of prints has never before been shown as a group. The exhibition runs January 22 through March 30.

Murray belonged to a generation of artists who emerged in the 1970s exposed to Minimalism and Pop art of the time—as well as earlier models such as Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism—and who experimented with new modes of expression. In this inventive artistic environment, Murray gained distinction by using boldly inventive forms and vivid objects and occurrences from everyday life. As Critic Roberta Smith wrote in the artist’s New York Times obituary, Murray “reshaped Modernist abstraction into a high-spirited, cartoon-based, language of form whose subjects included domestic life, relationships and the nature of painting itself.”

Murray’s approach to printmaking, like her painting, was iconoclastic, breaking with the idea that a painting or print is a two-dimensional object representing a single point of view. Murray’s prints reflect her penchant for eccentrically shaped works and multi-part compositions, with some constructed of multiple sheets of paper that she printed, tore and reassembled into three-dimensional art. Her compositions are dynamic, daring, witty and emotional, drawing inspiration from diverse sources ranging from masters Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to comics, children’s books and Walt Disney cartoons.

Although Murray won a MacArthur “genius grant” and received a retrospective spanning her 40-year career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York—honors bestowed on only a handful of women artists—West Coast audiences remain largely unfamiliar with her work.

“We are proud to bring the important work of Elizabeth Murray to the Bay Area,” said Connie Wolf, the Cantor’s John & Jill Freidenrich Director. “Murray spent formative years in this area, earning her MFA at Mills College in Oakland, and now our visitors will have the opportunity to see this extraordinary collection of work. First you experience the art’s illusion of motion, eccentric dimensionality and semi-abstract forms. When you get closer, you see ominous details—broken dishes, jagged edges, disheveled rooms—there’s always an edge to her work, a compelling complexity.”

The exhibition also includes a selection of three large-scale paintings by Murray that illuminate the relationship between her painting and printmaking.

Anne Waldman’s “Her Story” Collaboration with Murray
Prints on view include Murray’s collaborative project with renowned experimental poet Anne Waldman, which combined images by Murray and text by Waldman. The title of the series that resulted, “Her Story,” lends itself to the exhibition at the Cantor. Waldman, the author of more than 40 books, has been connected to the Beat movement and the second generation of the New York School. In 1974, with Allen Ginsberg, she founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where she continues to teach. She performs internationally and collaborates extensively with visual artists, musicians and dancers.

Born in Chicago in 1940, Elizabeth Murray spent much of her childhood drawing. In 1958 she entered the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to become a commercial artist, but work by Paul Cézanne inspired her to pursue painting instead. After earning a BFA from the Institute in 1962 and an MFA from Mills College, Oakland in 1964, she moved to New York, where she developed her mature style. She received numerous awards for her work, including the Skowhegan Medal in Painting in 1986 and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award in 1999. She was also honored by MoMA in 2005 with a retrospective exhibition, a distinction previously given only to three women: Louise Bourgeois, Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler. Her works are in many major public collections, including those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Soon after Murray’s death in 2007, the Bowery Poetry Club held a Praise Day in her honor; later in the year a private memorial was held for her at MoMA.

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