Presentation

I grew up in the very rural and small state of Vermont in the northeast region of the United States. A shortening from the french vert de montagne, it is a place renowned for its picture perfect farmland, lush forest and quaint towns. People often swoon over the State and assume it is glorious because it appears like “it used to”. Many of the old houses and barns are old and have been lovingly restored to their original “look”. This is nostalgia full blown, a romanticization of the 19th century that is tied to colonial era homesteading and nationalistic agrarian ideals. I’m not sure any of us would have liked what we found on a 19th century farm, with a passel of sheep grazing on cold, deforested rocky ground. That is why the State so perfectly represents a term like nostalgia: it conveniently edits the cold truth so the feeling is warm. Yet, I’m complicit in all of this. My family moved to the state to start a farm in the 1970’s and while it was a fantastic way to grow up, it was no rock breaking midnight milking affair. There’s also real reason for this manufactured narrative. The State needs income, the story provides respite and comfort, especially for visitors, and a reliance on a fiction is born. And thus, I chew on this omnipresence of looking back selectively - la vie en rose.    
We can reckon with nostalgia and throw facts at the romantic notions we gravitate towards, but at the end of the day, we all use it as a convenient method to manage our dreams and expectations. Dealing with the truth all of the time is not humanly possible, we’d simply break from sorrow and disbelief at our own messy history. Humans, after all, are very good at avoiding reality. So we tell stories and we laminate and preserve what we like and buff away the ugly conflict. Half of me has come to terms with this false truth telling because I know we need to believe in our ancestors and past to be able to collectively work together. The other half of me looks at this farmhouse of lies and wants to burn it down.
Nostalgia is crafted reparation. It’s a recovery operation. The cold war era sub is pulled from the depths of the sea and a selective story is told about it by the current owners of the residue. Nostalgia is convenience and power all at once and it’s ability to hide away in archives as fact is a brutal reality of the way in which the few narrate the history of the many.
These drawings are steeped in ideals and stereotypes, flawed rescues and laborious repairs of the past. They are invested in scenarios of rehabilitation, management of scene and outcome, fluffing of luxury and the furbishing of heroes. They are wrapped up in duplicitous wavering and sham negotiating as the old meets the new and a clash begins. They are versions above all because history is just that.

Ethan Murrow September 2015

Biography


Born in 1976. Lives & works in Boston.



EDUCATION


2002
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing, painting and sculpture

1998
Carleton College, Northfield, MN. B.A. in Studio Arts with a focus on painting and printmaking, Cum Laude with Distinction in The Arts (highest award given in the arts)

 

 


SOLO SHOWS - selection

2017
- Nevada Museum of Art, Reno Nevada             
- Kohler Art Center, Kenosha, WI
          
2016               
- Jacksonville MOCA, FL
- Journeys in/to Alternative Worlds” Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan WI
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
- Winston Wachter, New York, NY

2015
- Feinberg Art Wall wall drawing, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
- ”Hankering for the Past”, La Galerie Particulière, Paris, France
- Slete, Culver City, CA
- Winston Wachter, Seattle, WA

2014
- Winston Wachter, New York, NY

2013
-”American Ego”, La Galerie Particulière, Paris, France
- The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, Charleston WV
-"American Ego", La Galerie Particulière, Paris, France

2012
 - Obsolete Gallery, Venise, CA

2011
 - Winston Wachter, New York, NY
 - La Galerie Particulière, Paris, France

2010    
 - Winston Wachter Gallery, Seattle, WA
 - Obsolete Gallery, Venise, CA
 - Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, MI

2009
 - Winston Wachter Fine Art, New York, NY

2008
 - D3 Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
 - Obsolete Gallery, Venise, CA

2007
 - Winston Wachter Fine Art, Seattle, WA
 - Bucheon Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2006
 - Firehouse Center For The Visual Arts, Burlington, VT

2005
 - Obsolete Gallery, Venice, CA
 - Youngblood Gallery, Atlanta, GA
 - Reeves Contemporary, New York, NY

2004
 - MPG Contemporary, Boston, MA 2004 Building a Legacy The Bemis Center, Omaha, NE
 - Robert Rentz Gallery, Richmond, VA

2003
 - Aiken Center for the Arts, Aiken, SC
 - Spheris Gallery, Bellows Falls, VT
 - “Space Lab” Spaces Gallery, Cleveland, OH
 - Doll-Anstadt Gallery, Burlington, VT

2002
 - Mitten Gallery, Harrisonburg, VA

2001
 - MPG Contemporary, Boston, MA

2000
 - Firehouse Center For The Visual Arts, Burlington, VT




GROUP SHOWS


2017
- Nevada Museum of Art, Reno Nevada             
- Kohler Art Center, Kenosha, WI
          
2016               
- Jacksonville MOCA, FL
- Journeys in/to Alternative Worlds” Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan WI
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
- Winston Wachter, New York, NY

2015
- “Far, Far Away” Children’s Museum of Art, New York, NY
- "Cannot be Described in Words" New Art Center Complex Duxbury, MA

2014
- “Real Maravilloso” La Galerie Particuliere, Brussels, Belgium
- “The Vault - Destilled Lives” video and audio compendium, Spaces, Cleveland, OH 

2013   
- DeCordova Biennial, Lincoln

2010   
- "Fast Forward - Four for the Future" Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, NM
- “But is it Drawing?” Brattleboro Museum of Art, Brattleboro, VT

2009   
- “H20 Film on Water” Reeves Contemporary, New York, NY
- “On Paper” Jenkins Johnson, New York, NY
   
2008
 - “New Prints” The International Print Center, New York, NY

2005
 - The Ever Changing Landscape The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft Louisville

2004
 - Land Colby Sawyer College Art Gallery New London, NH

2003
 - Charcoal Reeves Contemporary, New York, NY
 - The Viewing Room, New York, NY
 - Violent Violence Gallery Art et Amicitiae, Amsterdam, Hollande

2002
 - Coloring Words The Fotogalerie, Fringe Club, Hong Kong
 - New Currents in Contemporary Art Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC

2001
 - International Sculpture Center at Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ


 


FILMOGRAPHY

 

2008
“Dust”, Official Selection, 46th annual New York Film Festival, New York, NY Co-writer, actor and narrator, produced with Harvest Films, Santa Monica, CA




RESIDENCIES, FELLOWSHIPS, AWARDS

 

2011
- Award for Teaching Excellence, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
- Artist in Residence at the Red Stables, courtesy of the City of Dublin, invited to create limited edition lithographs with master printers. Supported by SMFA Faculty Enrichment Grant. The Graphic Studio, Dublin, Ireland

2007
 - Artist in Residence, invited to create three limited edition lithographs with master printers.
 - The Tamarind Institute, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

2004
 - Artist in Residence, Fellowship. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha

2004
 - Artist in Residence. Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT

2001
 - Outstanding Student Achievement Award for Sculpture. The International Sculpture Center, Hamilton, NJ

1998
 - The Sigrid and Erling Larsen Award for creative excellence in the arts. Carleton College, Northfield, MN

1996
 - Hyslop-Warnholtz Artist's Grant, for travel and intensive study in Ireland. Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughn, Ireland, Carleton College Art Department

 



COLLECTIONS 

 

Cornell Fine Arts Museum
The University of New Mexico
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
Liberty Media
The Guggenheim Foundation
20th Century Fox
Harvest Films
Burton Snowboards
Burj Dubai – EMAAR
The Copper Press

 


MONOGRAHIES

 

“Draw the Line” A survey on drawing by Magma Books in association with Elephant MONOGRAPHS

“Ethan Murrow” Hatje Cantz (Berlin) with an essay by Ruth Erickson, assistant Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA - due out in Fall 2015

“Ethan Murrow” Los Angeles: Obsolete Books, 2008, 116 pages with essays by Ric Kasini Kadour and Ray Azoulay

Learn more

Texts

« El arte es una mentira que nos acerca a la verdad. »

Pablo Picasso

Hoaxers and hucksters, obsessives, fake scientists, doomed explorers, pathetic inventors, liars, a make-believe whale, and two goats : these are the creatures of Ethan Murrow’s worlds.

Here are the mises en scene : waterside exploration with undefined, antiquated scientific equipment ; Victorian American aviation inventors with personalized jet packs ; early twentieth century marine biologists with fake meters and projectors ; and barefoot miners hawking dust, holding umbrellas, and leashed to women on tricycles.

The gestalt of Murrow’s work, hidden in the fakery and malfunction of his subjects, is a truth about America. An honesty so veracious it can only be carried by the fictional accounts documented in Murrow’s videos and drawings.

Murrow is the grandson of pioneer broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and though the man passed away nearly a decade before his grandson’s birth, Edward’s life hangs over Ethan the way notoriety often lingers over its descendents. Ethan says he finds himself «  weirdly curious ; attracted and confused all at once » by his grandfather. And like many children or grandchildren of successful, famous people, a tension exists between being one’s own person and living up to the family name ; between trading on the accomplishments of one’s forefathers or forging one’s own path. Along with this tension, Ethan inherited his grandfather’s inquisitiveness about America ans a strong need to tell the truth.

The truth Murrow is attempting to share with us is buried in the collective of fictions that make up his work. As the viewer, he must become one of his intrepid explorers to find it. Here are some tools.

Murrow’s video works are elaborate recreations of narratives about characters, times, and places he makes up. He took an interest in performance and video work after a residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska in 2004. « Doomed Explorers » was is foray into the medium. Collaborating with his wife, Vita Weinstein Murrow, who shot the video and stills, Murrow scouted a location in the Pacific Northwest, created a variety of props and costumes, and defined the storyline.

Murrow appears in his videos and in doing so identifies himself with the flawed characters. The performance of the video is child-like play – fanciful dress-up and purposeless action – that is to say it is an excuse for the artist to be silly. « Doomed Explorers » is not silly, however, but a rather serious exploration of obsession and struggle. As an act of portraiture, it is a an indictment of the artist’s flaws and fears of failure. As an act of social commentary, it is both cutting and compassionate.

The drawings are based on phatographs and stills from his video and performance work. They are photorealist : Not recreations of the events, rather the renderings of images of the events in graphite. The perspective of « John McCarty, promoter of the mines and professional middleman, » for example, is that of a camera shot from above. The drawing retains the flattening effect of photography, an effect that highlights, certain details : the sheen on the gauge, the man’s veiny hands, or the wrinkly texture of the currency.

As a culture, we experience ourselves through photography-based media. « Dust Miners, » like the rest of Murrow’s work, trades on nostalgia. The characters reference 19th century gold rushers whom we have only visually experienced through photography that is stoic, posed, and direct. Murrow’s use of photorealism has the effect of bringing these moments closer to us. In short, he makes the unreal more real.

Murrow’s subjects come from a fascination with American mythology and that part of our national identity where we are pioneers, explorers, and inventors. « Pinto Brothers » tells the story of two early aviators attempting to launch and land using a personalized jet propulsion system. Murrow could have chosen to base the story in that of Lagari Hasan Celebi, a 17th century Turk who reportedly launched himself 300 meters using a cone filled with gunpowder, or the effete Montgolfier Brothers of Louis XVI’s France who were the first to launch a hot air balloon. Murrow chose the Wright Brothers as his model and, in doing so, plays upon America’s national identity. The men are shown in flat caps and suspenders. They are tall and thin with thick glasses and rigid jaws. When things don’t go well, one brother swipes his Stetson in an « aw-shucks » gesture.

« The Freshwater Narwhal Hoax » could have been about an Amazonian insect, but it is about looking for whales on the St. Lawrence River. With Melvillesque undertones, Murrow has marine biologists on streamer ships weaving a fantastic tale only to be exposed as frauds. The notion of freshwater whale is on the edge of believability. The University of Vermont Perkins Geology Museum proudly displays the bones of an ice-age era beluga whale found in 1849 on the shores of Lake Champlain. A website for visitors to the North Shore of Lake Superior playfully reports on « whale sightings » in Minnesota. There is something perversely American about the investigation in things that do not exist be they UFO’s, assassination conspiracies, or supernatural aquatic life. The television show The X Files told us « The Truth Is Out There » and suggested « I Want to Believe ». Barnum and Banvard, the Murrow’s whale researchers, lure us into believing with cetacean broadcasters, artic re-projectors, and sonar buoys that attract whales.

The Narwhals Hoax is eventully exposed by intrepid journalists in a piece titled « Uncovering and dissecting a hoax is hard work but reporters and publishers are very good at that kind of thing. » When science fails, the media steps in to save us.

From 1951 to 1955, Edward R. Murrow hosted a five-minute radio program called This I Believe. During the program, guests made commentary about their personal philosophies. It was the rawest form of journalism. It was simple and democratic. Edward wanted to report the truth about what people thought. The truth Ethan is feeding us may be hard to swallow : We believe in glory as defined by fame not deeds. We believe in success as marked by riches not accomplishment. We will believe in anything if it dressed up in science until it is exposed by the media.

 But there is another truth to the characters in Murrow’s work. The Dust Miners are rich with grit and perseverance. Pinto Brothers are patient risk takers. Barnum and Banvard are creative and industrious, earnest in their endeavors, be they misguided or not. The Doomed Explorer believes in himself. Though foolish and imperfect, Murrow’s characters are authentic and real. We should be so lucky that those qualities are also the truth about us.

Ethan Murrow’s America // Ric Kasini Kadour

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Press

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