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Exclusive | Elizabeth Murray: “Bop”

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Elizabeth Murray in her Manhattan studio with “Bop” (2002-03). Production still from the series Exclusive. © Art21, Inc. 2013. Cinematography by Ken Kobland.

“Usually what happens is when I start to really hate it, it starts to go someplace. It’s almost as though you have to get down into that place where you absolutely hate it and want to rip it off the wall, rip it to pieces, and throw it out, to start getting into it.”

Filmed in 2002, this new Exclusive shows the late artist Elizabeth Murray working on the large-scale painting Bop (2002-03) in her Manhattan studio. As Murray adds and removes shapes and colors to its interconnected canvases, she expresses frustration but later satisfaction with the piece. For Murray, an experience like this, of finding resolution after struggling, was a highlight of being an artist.

Surely there are non-artists who can relate to Murray’s struggle with Bop. Anyone who has ever attempted a creative endeavor has at times wanted to “rip it to pieces and throw it out.” Yet Murray’s persistence, the act of pushing through until the point of completion and contentment, is equally relatable.

How we reach that moment of satisfaction is often a mysterious and unknowable process. “I don’t think I can describe it,” says Murray in the Exclusive “but when I look at [Bop], instead of it being this battle, this conflict that I have to pull together, I can look at it peacefully.”

The evolution of “Bop” (2002-03). Production stills from the series Exclusive.
© Art21, Inc. 2013. Cinematography by Ken Kobland.

At Art21 we like to say that artists are “role models for creative thinking” and Murray was certainly such a figure. She demonstrates in today’s Exclusive the need for a certain drive in the creative process to achieve an end. In the above production stills you can see from frame to frame how Murray experimented with and at times rejected new ideas.

Art21 filmed Murray twice while she was making Bop, and again as she installed the finished work at Pace Gallery. During that five-month period we witnessed the painting’s evolution from a series of drawings to a completed three-dimensional form. Watch the video below.

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