ARTnews (September 1995)
In this group of 20 recent works on paper and one painting, Elizabeth Murray’s emphasis is on representation. Her theme is the theater of everyday life, enacted by a virtual repertory company of cups, shoes, tables and chairs. It’s the furnishings, not the human actors, that get top billing. When Murray depicts people, they are usually shown making entrances and exits, jutting their awkward feet in from stage left, or already extending halfway off the sheet at the right. In Broken Glass, five clumsy toes survey their misdeeds from the upper edge of the composition, framing the scene like a scalloped cornice.
Murray’s galvanized assembly of objects includes a tufted chair with a simian demeanor that expresses itself with histrionic splatters. In Bird, Chair, and Hand, a reveille of sunshine scares the daylights out of a coltish table, whose two protruding legs buck beyond the boundary of the paper. Cup, Feet and Dress hits a literally and figuratively darker note in its description of night terrors, in which the phantasm of a dress ogles its sleepless owner. In this “un-still life,” the floating garment is also a surrogate body and a loosely sketched cow’s skull.
The artist’s outrageous visual wit is matched by the sheer sensuous exuberance of her hand. While boldly inked cross-hatching underscores the space around most of the objects, variously colored washes slap into one another on the background planes.
Plying us with a content of numerous layers, Murray offers an intimate and seductive parallel universe. We are meant to find it at once accessible, risible and chilling.
ARTnews September 1995