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david ebony's new york top ten

elizabeth murray
at pacewildenstein

May 1- June 20, 1997

Elizabeth Murray
Could Be

   Chicago-born artist Elizabeth Murray pulled out all the stops for this, her first major exhibition at her new gallery, which she joined just last year after a long association with Paula Cooper. The 12 enormous shaped paintings in this show, made with bold colors and thick, cartoonish lines, are like theatrical characters, each with its own quirky personality. Most of these abstract images are derived from mundane household objects, such as buttons, pillows or coffee cups. Formerly Fleet is an image derived from a pair of orange shoes. It relates to a large sculpture in the form of a shoe that Murray recently created for the University of California at San Diego. In the painting, the arrangement of the shoes and the shape of the canvas suggest a gigantic human skull.

Murray's combination of cartoonish images and splintered planes seems to draw on the Cubism of Juan Gris as well as the vigor of Philip Guston's late works.. Her paintings manage to convey a feeling of warmth and intimacy, in spite of their grandiose scale. Moonbeam is an elegantly shaped canvas with what looks like an image of giant strands of yellow beads strewn on a white satin pillow. According to the artist, the painting depicts a moonlit bed, with the bedposts collapsed and resting on pillows. The oval Rescue may be an image of an imaginative alien being, but one that is strangely unintimidating. My favorite painting in the show, Could Be, resembles a collapsed table with a red tablecloth fluttering in the wind. However, as the title suggests, it could be anything.