Jesse Murry: Rising
Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, in partnership with Converge 45: Social Forms: Art as Global Citizenship.
Thursday, October 26 at 6:00 pm, Eliot Chapel
Lisa Yuskavage & Jarrett Earnest in conversation with Christian Viveros Fauné
Regular hours: Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5:00 pm
Nestled in the Reed College library, it is always free and open to the public.
The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, and Converge 45 are proud to present Jesse Murry: Rising—the first west coast showing of the poetic landscapes of American painter, poet, and art critic Jesse Murry (1948–1993).
The exhibition is curated by renowned American painter Lisa Yuskavage, and 2022 Kennedy Scholar Jarrett Earnest, and is part of Social Forms: Art as Global Citizenship—Converge curator Christian Viveros Fauné's city-wide initiative. The exhibition is organized for the Cooley by curator Stephanie Snyder and Converge artistic director Derek Franklin.
Jesse Murry: Rising presents a group of the artist's oil paintings created between 1988 and 1993, the last five years of Murry's life, when he was confronted with the reality of his impending mortality from AIDS-related illness. The works testify to Murry's lifelong belief in the capacity of painting to hold the complexity of human meaning—at the meeting of material fact and a location within the mind.
At the heart of Rising dwells the intimate and devoted friendship between Jesse Murry and Lisa Yuskavage. The two painters met at the beginning of their tenure at the Yale School of Art, where they received their MFAs in 1986. In the midst of Yale's notoriously difficult environment, they developed an artistic and intellectual fellowship, supporting and challenging one another as they discovered and grew their artistic vision.
In Yuskavage's words: "He was the most erudite person I ever met. He was physically grand: tall, with a big belly, and very dominant. He went to Yale graduate school in his late 30s to become a painter after publishing art criticism and being an art history professor... He know everything: film, fiction, history, trash TV shows, theater, peotry, Broadway, opera, pop music, you name it; and yet, though he got started very late, he wanted badly to paint... The fact that he didn't have a future is heartbreaking." Yet now, because of Yuskavage, Earnest, and other supporters, Murry's work is receiving the recognition and interpretation it deserves.
Like a line of poetry across a page, the painted horizon was Murry's guiding ideal and the central focus of his work. For Murry, the horizon encompassed the moment in which near and far, inside and outside, self and other could be negotiated and reconciled. Fusing the Romantic painting tradition of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner with the quality of mind and imagination of Wallace Stevens' poetry, Murry uniquely sought to create landscapes within a fiction of painting that could be "more than a place to dwell, but a suitable space for dreams."
Murry identified three significant approaches to landscape—"poetic," "dramatic," and "visionary"—and he synthesized them into his abstract paintings. Built of subtly shifting and layered color, Murry described his paintings as "places summoned by the memory through the imagination; where the elements of WEATHER are protagonists that act out moods open to many readings; where light and space have a spiritual import."
In the seven years following his time at Yale, Murry painted with extraordinary dedication, holding his first one-person show at the Sharpe Gallery in New York in 1987. He also continued to write about the history of painting and his own work, exploring their relationship to philosophy, poetry, and spirituality.
At the Cooley, Jesse Murry's paintings are accompanied by two special projects: a video remembrance from Lisa Yuskavage; and a letterpress edition of Murry's 1993 poem Aphorisms, which he wrote in the hospital after losing the ability to speak. The typeset poem is garlanded by the diacritical marks and lines in Murry's handwritten drafts. The edition is conceived, designed, and letterpress printed by Portland-based bookbinder and artist Rory Sparks.
A recently-published book of Murry's complete writings—Painting is a Supreme Fiction: Writings by Jesse Murry, 1980–1993—is available at the Cooley. The book is edited by Jarrett Earnest, with a Foreword by Hilton Als. Published by Sobserscove Press, 2021.
The Cooley and Converge 45 gratefully acknowledge the lenders to the exhibition: Candida Smith, and The Jesse Murry Foundation.
Jesse Murry (1948–1993) was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and raised in White Plains, New York. He studied art and philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College. Following his graduation in 1976, Murry moved to New York City, where he immersed himself in the contemporary art world. His essays on artists such as Hans Hofmann and Howard Hodgkin appeared in a range of publications and catalogues, including Arts Magazine. In 1982, he curated Currents: The Reverend Howard Finster at the New Museum, New York. After two years of teaching art history and exhibition at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Murry enrolled in the Yale School of Art at the age of thirty-six, where he took classes with Andrew Forge, Jake Berthot, and Harold Bloom. Murry received his MFA in 1986 and staged his first New York solo exhibition at Sharpe Gallery the following year. During this period, he was awarded the Mellon Individual Project Grant and the Pollock-Krasner Grant.
Lisa Yuskavage is an internationally celebrated painter. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she received her BFA from the Tyler School of Art in 1984, and her MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1986. Yuskavage's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at numerous institutions worldwide and is held in prominent public collections. In 2020–2021, The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Aspen Museum of Art co-organized Wilderness, a solo presentation of the artist's work, focusing on the ways she has used landscape in her work since her earliest watercolors. Yuskavage's monumentally scaled painting Bonfire (2013–2015) is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and her large-scale 2021 painting, Pink Studio (Rendezvous) is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Yuskavage is represented by David Zwirner, New York.
Jarrett Earnest is the author of What it Means to Write About Art: Interviews with Art Critics (2018) and Valid Until Sunset (2023) as well as editor of The Young and Evil: Queer Modernism in New York, 1930–1955 (2020), Painting is a Supreme Fiction: Writings by Jesse Murry, 1980–1993 (2021), and Devotion: today's future becomes tomorrow's archive (2022). His criticism has been published in magazines and exhibition catalogs around the world, and appears regularly in the New York Review of Books.
Christian Viveros Fauné (b. Santiago, Chile, 1965) has worked as a gallerist, art fair director, art critic, and curator since 1994. He was awarded Bucknell University's Ekard Visiting Fellowship in 2023, the University of South Florida's Kennedy Family Visiting Fellowship in 2018, a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Grant in 2009, and named Critic in Residence at the Bronx Museum in 2011. He co-founded the Brooklyn Rail in 1999, wrote art criticism for The Village Voice from 2008 to 2017, and was Art and Culture Critic for artnet news from 2016 to 2018. He has lectured widely at institutions, including Yale University, Pratt University, and Holland's Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and curated exhibitions at leading museums in the US, Europe, and Latin America. He currently serves as Curator-at-Large at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. He is also the author of several books. His most recent, Social Forms: A Short History of Political Art, was published by David Zwirner Books in 2018.
Rory Sparks is an independent letterpress printer and bookbinder who specializes in collaborative, limited-edition artist books. She is interested in investigating what shifts when we think about the book as a hybrid space, and publishing as a process of community-building. Sparks earned her MFA in interdisciplinary art through the Confluence Program, now at the University of New Mexico. Nationally, she has taught at various craft centers such as Penland School of Crafts and Minnesota Center for Book Arts. In the Pacific Northwest, she has taught at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She has also co-founded communal spaces including: Produce; Working Library; and Em Space. In 2023, Sparks completed a residency at Tipoteca Italiana, Cornuda, IT.
Converge 45 is a non-profit arts organization that produces a Contemporary Arts Biennial in Portland, Oregon. In collaboration with a dynamic community of artists, organizations, galleries, corporate partners, alternative venues, and a guest curator, Converge 45 develops a citywide exhibition across the metropolitan area every two years. The biennial intersects regional, national, and international perspectives around art and the future it seeks. Outside of the biennial program, the organization works in continued collaboration with community partners to support Portland's creative ecosystem by promoting the work of artists and organizations in the Pacific Northwest and improving access to broader art discourses within our communities.
Cooley Gallery director and curator
Account Executive, Cultural Counsel