Though both artists Abraham Cruzvillegas and Elizabeth Murray can be roughly categorized as effectively working in the post-Minimal era, neither artist can easily be included within a singular artistic movement of the 21st century. In this way, their differences reflect their similarities, and their similarities are limited mostly to each artist’s denial of and experimentation with the standard forms creation of their time. Both artists tended towards creation by means of “constructing” or “destructing” something that was already extant, but perhaps re-tooling that extant object for a different purpose. The following will look at two particular works, one by each artist, that hopefully exemplify the style and manner of creation that define the artistic sentiment espoused by their creators.
Firstly, Abraham Cruzvillegas’ most renowned artistic work is also one that has no definite end-date. It is his ongoing conceptual work known as autoconstrucción, translated roughly as “self-construction,” which greatly elaborate one of the core ideas buoying all his art: the use of found objects. Cruzvillegas could be described as an early example of an assembly sculptor working with “found art” genre. Born in Mexico City, (Art21) Cuzvillegas is said to root his sculptural practice based on the landscape of his childhood home in Ajusco, where poverty necessitated Mexicans to make due with what was available to them. Objects and items were constantly being recycled and repurposed to suit other physical needs. This can plainly be seen in Cruzvillegas’ exhibits, specifically where a children’s playground is assembled by way of clothes-lines, dumbbells, fence wire, and tin cans. The urban geography of his hometown, however, informs his work just as much as the natural geography. (WalkerArt) Ajusco is a town thriving in a landscape of volcanic rock, where the earth is in a constant state of flux and transformation as rock is born and “constructed” out of seemingly nowhere. So too, can one describe autoconstruccion – an ongoing artistic work that is defining and redefining itself by way of constant addition and subtraction. Cruzvillegas, however, does not limit his artistic expression to only sculpture, allowing his autoconstruccion to be “presented” to an audience by way of video, film and even live action performance. In this sense, Cruzvillegas not only “improvises” the means by which to create his work, but also the medium in which his work is displayed. (Art21) The aesthetic decisions are a result, and thereby not planned by the artist himself. This is done on purpose to help reflect the life of the families and rural people of his Mexican region, where an environment was built on ideas of usefulness and utilitarianism. Cruzvillegas describes his autoconstruccion as less a “method” or “technique” and more like an expression of a “way of life.” He considers autoconstruccion to be the most “authentic” form of creativity because it produces ingenuity in adverse and constricting circumstances. Thereby, what is created is the truest type of creation that one could foster.
Elizabeth Murray comes from a very different part of the world than Cruzvillegas. She was a native New Yorker, first burgeoning during the artistic renaissance that spread after the introduction of abstract expressionism. Unlike Cruzvillegas, Murray worked in the realm of painting and was very much devoted to it. She, like Cruzvillegas, however was one of a small group of artists who attempted to “reconstruct” art from something extant. In Murray’s case, it was the reductivist tendencies of the Minimalist painting movement that came before her. Some critics have gone as far as to say that Elizabeth Murray helped to “rebuild” the painting medium from scratch, expanding it and proving that it was a medium that was not dead, as the Minimalists were striving so hard to tacitly prove. (Smith) Murray’s art sprang from the environment she grew up in much like Cruzvillegas, but in a greatly different way. (MoMa) While Cruzvillegas was inspired by what he saw being done by his compatriots in rural Mexico, Murray was reacting to and encapsulating the eccentric world of New York City pop advertisement. In doing so, her works, though limited to painting, were still fusions of a myriad of things, just like Cruzvillegas’ sculptures. Instead of limiting herself to one canvas, as the traditionalist painter might, Murray would incorporate multiple canvasses in some work. Furthermore, her exemplary work, “Careless Love,” from 1995, Murray breaks the 2-dimensional restrictions of a painterly canvass, lending it a sculptural quality while still retaining its identity as a “painting.” The painting maintained the mysterious uncertainty of depiction that was so closely associated with the abstract expressionists. (MoMa) Additionally, Murray’s use of bright colors, amorphous shapes, and shattered forms harkens back to Cubist and surrealist painting while still maintaining an air of modernity that sets it apart from the works of those movements. The thickness of color and use of 21st century imagery – whether it be post-Bauhausian furniture or recognizable logos and insignias of modern-day amenities – also supplements the idea that Murray incorporates not only a myriad of artistic styles into her works but also a myriad of subject matter, borrowing and taking from decades that seem to have no sylistic or materialistic connection.
Perhaps the simplest way of comparing Cruzvillegas and Murray, who are undoubtedly very different in the mediums they work in, as well as their geographic influence, is to say that both artists treat their forms as purely unconnected to anything. Cruzvillegas does not care what is standard in sculpture, as he takes and borrows from whatever he can to make a piece. Additionally, Cruzvillegas does not believe in the
finality of a piece of sculpture, seeing it as always being in constant flux, constantly liable to change, to be constructed and to be potentially deconstructed. Murray, also, sees painting as not being bound by form. She allows her paintings to break into 3-dimensionality, to borrow from a multitude of styles and movements, and to be both representational and a-representational. Essentially, both artists push boundaries by not working within any boundaries.
- “Abraham Cruzvillegas | ART21”. Art21.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.
- “Abraham Cruzvillegas: The Autoconstrucción Suites — Calendar — Walker Art Center”.Walkerart.org. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.
- “Elizabeth Murray | Moma”. The Museum of Modern Art. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.
- “Elizabeth Murray. Yikes. January-February 1982 | Moma”. The Museum of Modern Art. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.
- Smith, Roberta. “Elizabeth Murray, 66, Artist Of Vivid Forms, Dies”. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.