The nine paintings and two drawings in this exhibition represent five years of work by Catherine Murphy, an artist known for her studies of the phenomenology of the ordinary. In her meticulously wrought images, the everyday seems fantastic. Brooch, for example, is an image of a gold pin adorning a woman's fancy, brilliant green cocktail dress. In Murphy's hands, the image takes on mythic significance, like an homage to a goddess. Another close-up image of a dress, Cinched Waist, is a detail of the midsection of a figure wearing a bright colored, striped dress with a wide black belt. The work recalls one of Domenico Gnoli's paintings of details of clothing, but here again, Murphy, without forcing the issue, strikes a feminist chord. One could read an allegorical statement into the belt as a symbol of bondage, or perhaps the artist refers to her own childhood, and her relationship to her mother.
The most astonishing paintings are landscape-related images. Upright Pool shows the bottom of a child's empty plastic swimming pool partly covered with autumn leaves. Besides the melancholy feeling it evokes of the passage of time, this painting of summer's end is also about the end of childhood. The playful yin-yang image of jumping dolphins in the top center of the turquoise pool hints at life's balances that one must maintain in adulthood.
One could go on endlessly reading allegorical meaning into Murphy's paintings. But such an approach would not distract from the wonderful formal qualities of the work. In her spare compositions, the artist, without relying on photo-realist techniques, expertly captures an amazing array of textures. Wood, glass, porcelain and plastic, among many other materials, seem at once authentic and ethereal.
Catherine Murphy, "New Work," Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., 560 Broadway, Suite 308 New York, NY 10012.