Sunday, November 02, 2014

a great piece on Catherine Murphy

       Catherine Murphy, “Cathy” (2001), oil on canvas, 54 1/2 x 64 3/4 inches

My favorite bits of Catherine Murphy Looks Ahead by John Yau

" In his groundbreaking essay, “The Painter of Modern Life” (1864), Charles Baudelaire coined the term “modernity” (modernité) to define his belief that the modern artist’s responsibility was to make work that joined together the fleeting, impermanent experience of life in an urban environment with that of the eternal. Edouard Manet was the first artist to truly understand what Baudelaire called for. In his depictions of ordinary urban moments such as “The Railway” (1872-73) and “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” (1881-82), he focused on anonymous encounters in which the viewer was both a witness and participant. But what has the artist’s responsibility become in a postmodern world where anonymous encounters can take place on the Internet and the eternal is largely regarded as obsolete? How do we confront the unavoidable situation of our mortality, in which there is no salvation, without resorting to producing objects of distraction or entertainment, which constitutes much of what is called art these days? This is the question that I think Murphy arrives at in her paintings and drawings."

"“Snowflakes (For Joyce Robins)” measures 52 x 52 inches, a perfect square. The scale of the painting underscores that it is a fiction based on direct observation. Here, it seems to me, is proof of what Murphy has never said about herself, which is that she is an observational painter with a philosophical outlook, who understands that abstraction and representation have become interchangeable, and to make work that focuses on their supposed difference is to avert one’s eyes. Her paintings are prolonged meditations on mortality. Her cut-paper snowflake is an enlarged version of a familiar decoration that we made as children and have seen as adults, particularly on the windows of elementary schools. We are also likely to remember that, as children, we learned that no two snowflakes are alike, and that our cut-paper versions were proof of both the snowflakes’ individuality and our own: no two of the snowflakes were ever exactly alike either."

Read the whole thing here:

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