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Maker(s):Murray, Elizabeth
Culture:American (1940 - 2007)
Title:Tree Head
Date Made:1983
Materials:Gouache and watercolor on four sheets of attached paper
Place Made:United States
Measurements:Sheet: 18 1/2 in x 18 1/2 in; 46.99 cm x 46.99 cm
Accession Number:  SC 2012.1.12
Credit Line:Gift of The Pokross Art Collection, donated in accordance with the wishes of Muriel Kohn Pokross, class of 1934 by her children, Joan Pokross Curhan, class of 1959, William R. Pokross and David R. Pokross Jr. in loving memory of their parents, Muriel Kohn Pokross, class of 1934 and David R. Pokross
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

non-representational image of two yellow capsule shapes overlapping with a tree form inside them on a dark backtround

Label Text:
From the early 1970s until her death in 2007, Elizabeth Murray created drawings, paintings, and prints that merge the immediacy and materiality of abstraction with a calculated use of personal narrative and humor. Working beyond the confines of the conventional rectangle, she is known for her elaborate multi-panel paintings comprised of irregularly shaped and colorful canvases. These works seamlessly integrate her childhood love of comics and her artistic interest in the work of the 1950s Abstract Expressionists.

While her labor-intensive paintings required elaborate planning, drawing allowed Murray to work more intuitively and demonstrate the process-driven nature of her work. Negating the natural shape of the paper by tearing and overlapping multiple sheets, she allowed the drawn form, rather than the dimensions of the paper, to dictate the drawing’s overall shape. This is evident in Tree Head, one of a series of tree drawings which Murray produced in the early 1980s as an exploration of the subject’s perceptual and formal ambiguity, as suggested by the title. Here, four sheets of paper are painted, torn, and layered, yet the bulbous, yellow tree form unifies the fragmented composition and draws the eye to the paper’s exposed edges. Murray allows the viewer to trace her process of rearranging the sheets as she builds layers of gestural marks, showcasing the raw physicality of her drawing.

nonrepresentational art; vegetation

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