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Exhibition of works on paper by Catherine Murphy opens at Sargent's Daughters
Catherine Murphy, Working Drawing (Moire Chair), c. 1989. Graphite on paper, 10 5/8 x 12 5/16 inches. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Peter Freeman Inc New York.

By: Jayne Johnson, edited by Sarah Alexander

NEW YORK, NY.- Sargent’s Daughters presents an exhibition of works on paper by Catherine Murphy entitled “Working Drawings”. This is the first time Murphy’s working drawings are on view to the public. This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Peter Freeman, Inc. and is accompanied by a publication published by Sargent's Daughters with accompanying text by Jayne Johnson.

Catherine Murphy’s career-long interest has been in decoding reality as a place of constant and inevitable change and in realizing abstract ideas through the exploration of everyday objects and situations. Instead of depicting stable, conventional spaces, she often sets up specifically-defined situations that play with our sense of surface and depth, teaching us to see the under-examined aspects of our everyday surroundings in startling ways. Her depiction of an immediate, often intimate moment, or an object’s presence, laced with an implied narrative, leads to a transcendent idea in spite of the precision of her imagery.

Murphy’s working drawings, exhibited here for the first time, show the process of the artist thinking out loud, yet in an essentially private realm. They are produced by the artist as a means for working through the complexities of her compositions. While creating these drawings, Murphy never had the intention to exhibit them publicly, and thusly the pen and pencil marks, the tape, the ragged edges torn from a notebook offer evidence of their constructive role in her practice.

While in a sense they are studies for paintings, they do not serve as explanations of the paintings. Murphy uses the working drawings as a point of exploration, and in some cases, as a means of expansion of the composition. As she would begin drawing on one piece of paper, she would often add to it by overlapping more pieces of paper onto the first, so the drawing could expand as she felt necessary. In this way, her drawing process is an additive one, allowing her to build up and develop a composition rather than reduce or simplify, the collaged elements evidence of this process.

Also on view in this exhibition are Queens, Cloudy Day, 1969 and Roof Tops, 1969, two early examples of Murphy’s many finished drawings. Painting and drawing are treated equally in her practice, and it is often the idea or composition that dictates the medium. The medium of drawing in the case of these two finished works enabled her to register the fleeting qualities of light and atmosphere in these outdoor scenes.

Catherine Murphy was born in 1946 in Cambridge, MA, and currently lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York. Murphy studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and received a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1967. She was awarded National Endowment for the Arts Grants (in 1979 and 1989), a Guggenheim Fellowship (in 1982), and was elected a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 2002. In 2014 she was awarded the Robert de Niro Sr. prize for distinguished mid-career American artists.

Her work is included in over 30 museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

A major monograph, co-published by Skira Rizzoli and Peter Freeman, Inc, will be published in April 2016. Written by John Yau, with a foreword by Svetlana Alpers, the book will span the entirety of Murphy’s career.

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