Elizabeth Murray, born in Chicago, was an abstract artist who painted richly colored, cartoony, evocative paintings in her own unique, innovative, loopy style on sculptural, custom-shaped canvases. Murray’s eclectic influences included the Post-Impressionist paintings of Paul Cezanne, the shaped canvases and assemblages of Cubist artists, and the free-floating forms of Surrealism, found particularly in the paintings of Joan Miro.
Murray earned an M.F.A degree from Mills College in Oakland in 1964. Her work was selected for the Whitney Biennial of 1972. After a decade of experimenting in various painting styes, she concentrated on lush colors and biomorphic shapes as seen in such paintings as “Pink Spiral Leap” 1975.
Over time her painting surfaces became more extreme. Some of her works are 9 feet long or more. Some are shaped with upturned edges or bulges across the surface. Others are made of an assemblage of canvases. Starting in the 1980s, critics referred to her work as eloquent. Her subway installations are permanent fixtures: one in Manhattan and the other in Queens, N.Y.
In 1988, the Whitney Museum organized Murray’s first museum retrospective. She received a MacArthur Grant in 1999; had a major retrospective at New York’s MoMA, an honor given to only four other women at that time; and was included in a Venice Biennale.
Murray was given more than 50 solo exhibitions, and her art has been included in dozens of group shows since her 1972 debut in “Contemporary American Painting” at the Whitney Museum.