Friday, October 21, 2005


In today’s Weekend Art’s section of the New York Times, art critic Michael Kimmelman, begins his review of painter Elizabeth Murray’s upcoming retrospective at the Museum of Modern art with:

“The philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously divided writers and thinkers into foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes are interested in many things. Hedgehogs in one. Foxes move from one problem to another. Hedgehogs dig deep. Dante and Proust were hedgehogs. Moliere and Pushkin were foxes. Einstein was a hedgehog. Shakespeare was a fox..”

“Elizabeth Murray is a hedgehog.”

Kimmelman goes on to describe the chronology of Murray’s hedgehogedness, or digging deep, as I guess Kimmelman would say, in the context of some of the more notable movements in art; cubism, surrealism, comics, minimalism and abstraction.
And in that context I think he does admirable service to a marvelous painter. But…and here I guess I need to dig a little deep…it’s hard for me to accept such a clean and neat division between the motivation behind a work of art and the finished example, especially one that has reacted to so many different approaches to the art process. For in fact, as Kimmelman rightly points out, Murray has moved from one problem to another. I would venture to say just like a “fox.”

However, I’m not interested in a the acrobatics of semantics. I am more interested, in the spirit of a fox-like hedgehog,in what I can glean from a great artist. As I stated in a post previous to this one, I am working my way through a technical dilemma with my art regarding cartoons, minimalism, and abstraction. So when I see examples of imagery and art concerns of the kind pointed out by Kimmelman that appear to be associated with my own dilemma ( “Impulse toward movement, the antithesis of Minimalist stasis,” “cartoonish scenes on canvas,” “Images that at times appear sneakily abstracted,” etc. ) I get excited!

I just now realized that I used the word “technical” in relationship to cartoons, minimalism, and abstraction. I guess I see those components (language?) of my work as something that serves a larger purpose, something deeper in the psyche. Maybe the difference between style and substance? Hmmm. Haven’t quite written about it that way before. Well, maybe that’s a start in the right direction. We’ll see.


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