new-york

Catherine Murphy

Xavier Fourcade, Inc.

Catherine Murphy’s paintings look like many other Realist paintings in their constipated handling of superhuman detail, the need to “get it all in” usually producing failed passages. (All-inclusiveness, or perfection, is against the law of averages.) The major difference between Murphy and many other painters of her school—aside from her iconographic wit—is that her awkwardness and leadenness have a reason for being in her subject matter and, more importantly, in her view of that subject matter.

Murphy warps the domestic details of the working class, composing them badly to convey the poignant artlessness of a certain kind of decent but unlovely lower-middle-class existence. Oddly angled, her spaces present the skewed perspective of an eye deformed by the harshness of a restricted life. She refuses to prettify, gripping us by the hair and forcing us to confront the unredeemed, the unesthetic.

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