Judith Murray works primarily in oil on linen canvases, sculpting paint into abstract compositions. Her early work was spare and assertive inhabited by a few complex irregular geometric forms which over the years evolved more to the natural world but as sensations, formalized through color, the physicality of brush strokes and scale. The equilibrium is maintained through both materiality and color organization.
Among Murray’s signature parameters is her limited palette, which has always consisted of only four base colors: red, yellow, black, and white. Over the years, she has remained faithful to the use of only these four colors, mixing and combining them to produce a seemingly infinite variety of shades and hues. Paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture—have emerged from just this palette. The discipline of restricting herself to this palette has given a kind of subliminal freedom, even invisible stability to the body of her work. Compositionally, Murray works from an off-square format and all her paintings include a vertical bar along the right edge of the canvas. This stripe that first appeared in the 1970s has also become a permanent element in all her paintings, in effect anchoring the rest of the canvas to the picture’s frame, acting as a visual foil, as well as creating a personal system.
The varied hues in the hundreds of works she has produced—paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture—have emerged from just this palette. Murray, who has traveled extensively—from the jungles of South America to the ancient temples of Asia—researching crafts and art, believes it represents her primary universal palette, with references to prehistoric painting and aboriginal art around the world.
Judith Murray’s solo exhibitions begin in 1976 at the historic Betty Parsons / Jock Truman Gallery, New York, followed by solo shows at the legendary Clocktower, New York; MoMA - PS 1, New York; the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Texas, and numerous gallery exhibitions. Her paintings have been included in the Whitney Museum Biennial, New York, and over 30 group museum exhibitions worldwide. In 2006 the filmmaker Albert Maysles produced a documentary about her large paintings, Judith Murray: Phases and Layers. Her work is on exhibit at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani Venice, Italy, collateral with the 2015 Venice Biennale. She is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award for Painting and the National Endowment for the Arts Award. Murray was inducted into the National Academy in 2009, and has been a member of the American Abstract Artists since 1985.
Murray’s work is in numerous notable public and private collections, including those of the United States Embassy in Mumbai, India; the royal family of Abu Dhabi Museum; The Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the National Museum of Art, Warsaw, Poland; the Whitney Museum, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; The National Academy Museum, New York; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York; The Contemporary Museum, Hawaii; and the New York Public Library. Murray’s paintings and drawings have been included in numerous anthologies. As a young artist, she was the artist-in-residence with the United States Information Agency in Poland. She has taught and lectured at several universities.
Judith Murray lives and works in New York City and Sugarloaf Key, Florida.