Photorealist pioneer shows on Edgewood

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Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

A World War II fighter plane, a postcard of a cruise ship and memories of being bitten by a dog inspired some of the works in the latest exhibit at the School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Ave. gallery.

“Malcolm Morley in a Nutshell: The Fine Art of Painting 1954-2012” opened this Tuesday as the second of five shows to be held at 32 Edgewood this academic year. The exhibit is a mini-retrospective of Morley’s progression as an artist, said School of Art Dean Robert Storr, the exhibit’s curator.

The show spans Morley’s work from his days as a young student-artist to his work as a photorealist painter during the 1960s, ending with an installation he completed only a week ago, Storr said. The exhibition has no chronological progression, Storr explained, adding that the idea was rather to highlight the British artist’s tremendous range.

“I basically got a list of all of his work that was in the Tri-State area that we could get,” Storr said. “I wanted to make a selection that represented the variety of what he did in terms of style and medium.”

Morley, who won Tate Britain’s first Turner Prize for contemporary art in 1984, said he views the showcase as more of a “mini-survey” than a retrospective exhibit. He added that his art is strongly influenced by the ideas of self-discovery and personal evolution, and that he evolved from an artist concerned with establishing his reputation to an artist concerned with larger issues, such as the destruction of World War II.

The final installation — created so recently that the paint was still wet when it arrived to the gallery, Storr said — was inspired by the second World War, Morley said. Depicting a British fighter plane called “The Spitfire,” Morley said the piece reveals his subconscious mind at work: His apartment was destroyed by a “jet-propelled bomb” when he was just 13 years old.

“It made a very deep impression on me as a child,” Morley said. “If you make contact with where you bury that stuff, it can be a great source for an artist. It’s like making friends with your unconscious life.”

Morley became renowned in the art world for his realistic paintings, Storr said, calling the artist a pioneer in the field of photorealistic paintings. In a radical digression from artistic practices of the 1960s, Morley began creating crisp and lifelike paintings at a time when most artists tried to hide the photographic sources of their work, not pay tribute to them, Storr said.

Anoka Faruqee, an associate professor of painting and printmaking at the School of Art, said seeing Morley’s work in person brought out facets of the art not evident in reproductions.

“It was really great to see this amount of [his] work in person because I had seen the work in reproduction before and it’s a very different experience,” Faruqee said. “There are watercolors and material qualities are not evident in the photographs.”

The exhibit runs through March 31, 2012.

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