Walter Murch tries to ‘draw air’ between his eyes and his subjects

On December 11, 1967, Walter Tandy Murch, 60, died of a heart attack after speaking at a fundraiser for the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture at the River Club in New York City. At the time, Murch was at the peak of his artistic fame: he recently won a Guggenheim Prize, and a major traveling exhibition of his work was making its final stop at the Brooklyn Museum.

For the next 50+ years, Murch’s family and friends sought to produce a monograph on his art. Backed by filmmaker George Lucas, who owns a large collection of Murch’s work, Walter Tandy Murch: Paintings, 1925-1967 What ended up being considered a large, beautiful coffee table book featuring Lucas, the artist’s son Walter Scott Murch and art historians Robert Stoll, Winslow Myers and Zhu Di Colichamp’s extensive article on the occult arts.

Murch’s particular genius was that he could draw things that were both solid and dissolved.As he put it, “I drew air between eyes and objects.” In his detailed recollections, Murch Fils This metaphysical point may be made because his father had only one functioning eye after a football accident at the age of 12 left him partially blind.

In her essay, Judy Collischan points out that Murch’s still lifes can be grouped into three broad categories, “machines, geometrics, and organic materials,” which sometimes appear on the same canvas. In “Car Heater” (1967), for example, Murch sets the titular mechanism on a rectangular block next to a lemon, and the whole installation is bathed in the bright air he so skillfully renders.

Walter Murch, “Car Heaters,” (1957), oil on canvas, 21 ½ x 16 ½ inches, (North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh)

Even with sharpened focus, Murch’s still lifes retain a sense of mystery. Take “Metronome” (1946), for example: the triangular contraption used to maintain rhythm hovers an inch or so above the table, like a prop in a de Chirico painting.The precise representation of textures and shading is stunning, reflecting Murch’s commissioned images of machines and scientific tools for the following magazines wealth and scientific american.

At times, Murch’s still lifes are reminiscent of a famous quote by the Count of Lautreamont Song of Maldor (1868-1869) Basic image as a Surrealist: “As beautiful as a chance encounter with a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.” The painting Egg with Object (c. 1960) is in A round red tin can, a water glass filled with three eggs, a piano key and a bottle partially filled with turpentine were assembled on a narrow shelf. The seemingly random lineup of four objects is both surreal and cute and eclectic.As Robert Storr puts it in his article, “Murch’s Troyer There are some [Surrealist] It’s a surprising quality to them, though not the subtext of domineering. “

Murch likes to stack items. Some of them, like the three bricks in “SSBC” (1961; the initials stand for Sutton and Sudderly Brick Company), convey stability. Others, like in “Red Cabbage” (1956), the gorgeous cabbage head bears a small ball, reminiscent of a balancing act.

At times, Murch came up with a hoax. In “Spray Can” (circa 1955), a humble aerosol can topped with a lipstick-red button that emits a mist without a finger trigger. Less than 10 years later, Roy Lichtenstein will use the theme in his “Spray Can” painting, which depicts a woman’s manicured hands and brands in his signature comic strip style mark. If Lichtenstein’s image is an improvisation of consumerism, Murch’s image is a homage to the magical realism of form and function.

As the book points out, some critics in the past have linked Murch’s work to American trompe l’oeil artists such as John Peyto and William Harnett, but he didn’t mean to deceive the eye, except in those painted Dust is so tangible that you feel the need to wipe off the picture. He enjoys soiling his surfaces, stepping on canvas, extinguishing cigarettes in paint, and even letting pigeons do business on the pictures he sets on the platform outside his window.

Murch’s aesthetic kinship with another atmospheric diffusion guru, Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978), was formed by chance. Dickinson’s 1926 “Cliff X” series displayed a similar loving attention to the texture of stone, while his erratic enthusiasm for glaciers painted in the early 1940s matched Murch’s attraction to all kinds of rocks, including meteors and the moon rock.

Murch also made his contribution to dead creatures, a historic natural death Subject. ‘Dog’s Head’ 1947, ‘Smoked Whitefish’ 1948, ‘Cooked Eel’ 1953 and ‘Cylinder and Dove’ 1961-62 are stunningly realistic.His research predicted those Bruce Curran (1938-2013)the creepy master of still lifes.

Text accompanying the artwork includes the aforementioned Walter Scott Murch’s intimate biographical sketch of his Canadian-born father. He recounts how he and his father “gentlely” broke into an abandoned farmhouse while on vacation in New Hampshire, ripping off old wallpaper, which Murch used as a “fragile canvas” for his paintings.

We also learn from Murch Jr that earlier, when his father asked his friend Joseph Cornell what he should paint, the collager replied, “For God’s sake, Walter, whatever what to draw”, and handed him an antique bilboquet, a children’s “cup” ball” toy. Murch heeded the call, and soon after painted “Bilboquet’s Still Life” (1938), to the curio lying beside him Amazing research, surrounded by a mess of rope and black beads.

Winslow Myers, Murch’s student at Boston University in the mid-1960s, highlights various influences on his teachers, including his mentor Arshile Gorky, as well as writers Aldous Huxley and Albert Camus. He shared a quote from Murch’s manager, Betty Parsons, underscoring the artist’s confidence: “[Murch] Not pursuing anything. He thought he had it in his own heart. “

George Lucas claimed in his glowing foreword, “I’m not an art critic, and I certainly don’t want to sound like one.” Nonetheless, star wars The creators made some valuable observations. “In an age of obsession with fashion products,” he wrote, “it is important to point out that Murch was not trying to capture the design of the object. He wanted to capture the character of the object.” Walter Tandy Murch: Paintings, 1925-1967character is king.

Walter Tandy Murch: Paintings, 1925-1967 Published by Rizzoli, available at bookstore and independent bookstores.

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