Exhibition brings together paintings from the last five years of Jesse Murry's life

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Exhibition brings together paintings from the last five years of Jesse Murry's life
Installation view, More Life: Jesse Murry, David Zwirner, New York, September 17–October 23, 2021. Courtesy David Zwirner.

NEW YORK, NY.- David Zwirner is presenting Jesse Murry: Rising, curated by Lisa Yuskavage and Jarrett Earnest.

Painter and poet Jesse Murry (1948–1993) identified three significant approaches to landscape —“poetic,” “dramatic,” and “visionary,” which he aimed to synthesize into abstract paintings. Built of subtly shifting color dynamics, his canvases became “places summoned by the memory through the imagination; where the elements of WEATHER are protagonists that act out moods open to many readings; where the light & space have a spiritual import.” To this end, the horizon was both his central image and guiding ideal, as the moment where near and far, inside and outside, self and other could be negotiated and reconciled. Fusing the Romantic painting tradition of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner with the quality of mind and imagination of Wallace Stevens’s poetry, Murry uniquely sought to create a “landscape” within the fiction of painting that could be “more than a place to dwell but a suitable space for dreams.”

Jesse Murry: Rising brings together paintings from the last five years of the artist’s life. This work—made while confronting his impending mortality from AIDS-related illness—testifies to Murry’s lifelong belief in the capacity of painting to hold the complexity of human meaning, at the meeting of a material fact and a location within the mind.

Born in North Carolina, Jesse Murry studied art and philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College before moving to New York City in 1979. His essays on artists including Hans Hofmann and Howard Hodgkin appeared in a range of publications, including Arts Magazine. After two years of teaching art history and exhibiting at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Murry enrolled in the Yale School of Art at the age of thirty-six.
Jesse Murry's student ID at Sarah Lawrence College, NY

Yuskavage and Earnest note: Every curatorial decision was guided by Jesse Murry’s own words, taking a cue for the title of the show from one of his final paintings, Rising, in our attempt to not only “bring him back” as an artist, but also to convey what an extraordinary man was lost. Furthering our organizing principle, visitors will be able to listen to newly unearthed audio recordings of Murry speaking in 1980 from the collection of the Archives of American Art at the exhibition and online. We hope the gallery will be a space of quiet contemplation where we invite the viewer to sit and read his writing while being surrounded by the paintings. There will also be a short video on the gallery’s website that, coupled with the art and writing, will give viewers a sense of this exceptional painter, intellectual, poet, and cultural force.

The exhibition is a part of More Life, a focused series of curated solo exhibitions presented on the fortieth anniversary of the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis.

Murry and Yuskavage met while attending Yale School of Art, where they received their MFAs in 1986. Yuskavage’s essay “Muse” on their friendship was published in 2011 in Art in America. An exhibition of new paintings by Yuskavage is concurrently on view in the main space of the gallery’s 533 West 19th Street location—the first time since their 1986 MFA thesis exhibition that Murry’s and Yuskavage’s work is being presented in adjoining galleries.

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