Magazine article Artforum International

Robert Murray

Magazine article Artforum International

Robert Murray

Article excerpt

It was after meeting Barnett Newman at the Emma Lake Artists' Workshops in Saskatchewan in 1959 that Robert Murray turned his talents from painting to sculpture. Murray's self-prescribed mission was to take the pictorial language of painterly abstraction and transform it into three dimensions. In the resulting work, one finds the preoccupation with surface and the play between flatness and depth as in his earlier abstract painting. Murray is a tree modernist: Marrying formalist concerns with industrial materials, he questions and expands the metaphoric language of sculpture. Whether employing bright colors to unify structural anomalies or engaging the movement of light on flat planes and curvilinear forms, he creates an interplay of constantly changing surface effects.

Curated by the National Gallery of Canada's Denise Leclerc, "Robert Murray: The Factory as Studio" was the first major retrospective of the artist's work in more than a decade and included thirty-eight sculptures as well as models, prints, and drawings spanning thirty-plus years. Murray's work marks a high point in Canadian Minimalist sculpture (whose proponents included Bill Vazan, Royden and David Rabinowitch, and Roland Poulin). This can be seen in the spare elegance of a work like Track, 1966, one of Murray's "diagonal and support" pieces, in which two flat bands of steel are propped at an angle on aluminum vertical supports. Other works are more personally inflected. La Guardia, 1968, for example, evokes Murray's love of flying, by translating a pilot's perception of space during an airstrip landing into a work comprising two curving arches, one larger than the other, with two parallel tracks of Q-decking (corrugated ready-made steel construction material) running between them. …

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