University at Buffalo Art Galleries to present the first major posthumous survey of work by pioneering artist Elizabeth Murray

Published May 11, 2021

Photo of Elizabeth Murray in 1965, outside her studio in Buffalo, holding up a spindly sculpture.

Elizabeth Murray outside her home/studio at 77 Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, NY (c. 1965) as photographed by Don Sunseri. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

May 11, 2021 Buffalo, NY — This summer the University at Buffalo Art Galleries presents the first major posthumous exhibition of work by pioneering painter Elizabeth Murray (1940–2007). This survey presents a fresh look at important themes and motifs of Murray’s five-decade career.

Elizabeth Murray: Back in Town plots the artist’s career chronologically through paintings, drawings, and prints, which reveal how the early, never-before-exhibited works she made while based in the San Francisco Bay area and later in Buffalo relate to the mature painting style that earned her critical acclaim.

The impact of the two years Murray spent in Buffalo working and teaching at Rosary Hill College (now Daemen) has previously been a footnote in her legendary career and was treated as a two-year stopover during her move from San Francisco to New York City. In Buffalo, as Murray acknowledged herself, her work “changed radically,” setting her on a path to become the bold painter known for her wildly shaped canvases—a mix of abstraction and cartoonish figuration. This survey marks 55 years since Murray’s solo exhibition at the Tomac Gallery, an artist-run gallery in Buffalo, which was in operation from 1965 to 1969.

“Bringing an exhibition of Elizabeth Murray’s work to Buffalo has long been a dream of mine. To be the host of such a major survey of her work with an accompanying publication and new scholarship about her career is truly exciting,” said Robert Scalise, Director of UB Art Galleries and curator of the exhibition. “As part of a vibrant research university in a city with a thriving artistic community, this exhibition is a perfect marriage of art historical inquiry and inspiration.”

The UB Art Galleries presentation is the largest since her 2005 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and includes 71 works with 21 paintings, 29 drawings, and 21 prints. Highlights include the never-before exhibited Portrait of Einstein & Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1963). Painted while Murray lived in San Francisco, the work is one of the artists’ earliest shaped pieces and features portraits of Albert Einstein and mathematician Charles Proteus Steinmetz nestled on a canvas with collage and paint. N. H. Lockwood (1964-67), also on view for the first time, is one of the very few examples of Murray’s use of stuffed sculpture—a medium she explored almost exclusively during her two-years in Buffalo. In N.H. Lockwood a figure stares into a mirror while an arm, constructed from the sleeve of a shirt, reaches out to apply lipstick. Signature examples of every period of Murray’s work are represented in this survey including works from her ‘minimal’ period in the 1970s to the ‘maximal’ works she created in the 1980s. The exhibition also includes the artists’ final painting, Everybody Knows (2007). Significant loans from private and institutional collections round out the survey including Riverbank (1997) on loan from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Additionally, a sizable selection of drawings and prints are highlighted, including those Murray made during her near two-decade collaboration with ULAE.

Elizabeth Murray: Back in Town is curated by UB Art Galleries Director Robert Scalise and is organized in partnership with The Murray-Holman Family Trust, New York. A fully-illustrated catalogue will feature a new essay by Jason Andrew, Director of the Estate of Elizabeth Murray and a conversation on Murray and approaches to painting by UB Art Galleries Curator Liz Park with artists Math Bass, Natessa Amin, and Rachel Eulena Williams. A timeline of the artist’s life has been developed by UB Art Galleries curatorial intern Alison Cortes. Generous support for this exhibition is provided by Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, Charles Balbach, and Kate and Steve Foley.


Image: Elizabeth Murray outside her home/studio at 77 Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, NY (c. 1965) as photographed by Don Sunseri. © 2021 The Murray-Holman Family Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


About UB Art Galleries

The University at Buffalo Art Galleries’ mission is to support art and ideas that are urgent and relevant to our time and place. A unique art museum with locations in the Center for the Arts and UB Anderson Gallery, UB Art Galleries presents year-round exhibitions, providing students and the broader community access to thought-provoking art, visiting artists, and stimulating educational programs. With a growing collection and archives, UB Art Galleries provides experiential learning opportunities for students, faculty, and researchers. Learn more about how UB Art Galleries advances art as both inquiry and creative practice available to everyone at Open Thursday–Sunday, 11 am–5 pm, appointments can be made in advance at