Artist Elizabeth Murray outside her home/studio at 77 Woodlawn Ave., Buffalo (c. 1965), as photographed by Don Sunseri. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007), Portrait of Einstein & Charles Proteus Steinmetz, 1963. Oil and mixed media collage on board, 21 x 26 inches. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York.
Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007), N.H. Lockwood, 1964–67. Oil and cloth on canvas, 26 1/4 x 25 1/3 inches. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York.
Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007), Back in Town, 1999. Oil on canvas, 97 x 92 inches. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York.
Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007), The New World, 2006. Oil on wood, 96 1/2 x 79 x 1 3/4 inches. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York.
Published June 2, 2021
“Elizabeth Murray: Back in Town,” the first major posthumous exhibition of work by pioneering painter Elizabeth Murray, opens June 12 in the UB Anderson Gallery.
The survey presents a fresh look at important themes and motifs of Murray’s five-decade career. It plots the artist’s career chronologically through paintings, drawings and prints that reveal how the early, never-before-exhibited works she made while based in the San Francisco Bay area — and later in Buffalo — relate to the mature painting style that earned her critical acclaim.
The impact of the two years Murray spent in Buffalo working and teaching at Rosary Hill College (now Daemen College) previously was a footnote in her legendary career — treated as a two-year stopover during her move from San Francisco to New York City. In Buffalo, as Murray acknowledged herself, her work “changed radically,” setting her on a path to become the bold painter known for her wildly shaped canvases — a mix of abstraction and cartoonish figuration.
The exhibition marks 55 years since Murray’s solo exhibition at the Tomac Gallery, an artist-run gallery in Buffalo that operated from 1965-69.
“Bringing an exhibition of Elizabeth Murray’s work to Buffalo has long been a dream of mine. To be the host of such a major survey of her work with an accompanying publication and new scholarship about her career is truly exciting,” says Robert Scalise, director of the UB Art Galleries and curator of the exhibition. “As part of a vibrant research university in a city with a thriving artistic community, this exhibition is a perfect marriage of art historical inquiry and inspiration.”
The UB Art Galleries’ presentation is the largest exhibition of Murray’s work since her 2005 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and includes 71 works — 21 paintings, 29 drawings and 21 prints. Highlights include the never-before-exhibited “Portrait of Einstein & Charles Proteus Steinmetz” (1963). Painted while Murray lived in San Francisco, the work is one of the artist’s earliest shaped pieces and features portraits of Albert Einstein and mathematician Charles Proteus Steinmetz nestled on a canvas with collage and paint.
“N.H. Lockwood” (1964-67), also on view for the first time, is one of the very few examples of Murray’s use of stuffed sculpture — a medium she explored almost exclusively during her time in Buffalo. In “N.H. Lockwood,” a figure stares into a mirror while an arm, constructed from the sleeve of a shirt, reaches out to apply lipstick.
Signature examples of every period of Murray’s work are represented in this survey, including works from her “minimal” period in the 1970s to the “maximal” works she created in the 1980s. The exhibition also includes the artist’s final painting, “Everybody Knows” (2007). Significant loans from private and institutional collections round out the survey, including “Riverbank” (1997), on loan from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Additionally, a sizable selection of drawings and prints are highlighted, including those Murray made during her nearly two-decade collaboration with Universal Limited Art Editions, a fine art print publisher.
“Elizabeth Murray: Back in Town,” on view through Oct. 3, has been organized in partnership with The Murray-Holman Family Trust, New York. An illustrated catalogue will feature a new essay by Jason Andrew, director of the Estate of Elizabeth Murray, and a conversation on Murray and approaches to painting by Liz Park, UB Art Galleries curator, and artists Math Bass, Natessa Amin and Rachel Eulena Williams.
The UB Anderson Gallery, located at 1 Martha Jackson Place near the South Campus, is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Appointments are recommended, but not required.
For more information, visit the UB Art Galleries website.