In his quote: "I Don't Believe in Art, I Believe in Artists", Duchamp provokes the paradoxical state of art vs. art making defined by the role of artist. Muriel Oxenberg Murphy, matriarch and champion of artists co-founded the Department of American Painting and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1949 with Bob Hale. Muriel also hosted a famous salon in her Upper East Side home from the 1950's - mid 70's frequented weekly by Duchamp and a menagerie of other artists, architects, and literary figures including one of her partners the American writer William Gaddis. The exhibition is inspired by her legacy as a curator at the MET, her famous salon, and the private mentorship she gave artists throughout her career. It is impossible to mention Muriel without speaking first about Argentinian artist Diego Singh. In 2003 Jose Diaz, then a young aspiring curator, now curator of the Andy Warhol Museum, had randomly seen my video work at a Biennale in New Orleans. Shortly after, he sent an invitation to participate in a show at his apartment gallery called Wormhole Laboratories. I said yes, jumped in a car and upon arriving in Miami for the first time encountered Diego painting a mural on Jose's living room wall. We immediately began discussing his painting, leading to a life long friendship. Later that year, Diego curated a project at Miami Light Projects. As luck would have it, Muriel was at the opening as she had become a mentor and friend to D until she passed at the age of 82 in 2008. I didn't live in Miami but a swirl of activity that year, sparked by my engagement with Jose and Diego, kept pulling me there. At a subsequent visit to Muriel's apartment in South Beach, I remember being somewhat intimidated yet dazzled by the all white glowing interior of her Kubrick like modernist space ship. Like a moth to the flame, I folded in and bathed in the aura of Muriel, one who knows and has seen things.
The surrealist short story "The Circular Ruins" by Jorge Luis Borges has on occasion acted as a portal of sorts when I need to write about art. The protagonist is confronted with the destruction of the temple, we as artists and curators navigate a history and linage of the past, co-mingling with our present to become both the observer and the dreamer. Muriel seemed to embody an effortless vessel of history, while simultaneously always following a liminal trajectory, as she soared into the future. Admittedly, I primarily know her through Diego's stories and her memoirs, as legends do, she lives on. This past May (2018) I was back in Miami, on the floor of Diego's studio flipping through her book, Excerpts: from the unpublished files of Muriel Oxenberg Murphy (Murphy, 2008), as he put a finishing touch on a painting entitled Speaking Under Water for his exhibition opening the next day. I read aloud to him a passage Muriel wrote about Duchamp playing chess in her living room, a mere fifteen years had come and gone for us, was it possible? I've learned to recognize these suspended moments like those shooting stars you barely glimpse, where memory forms then instantly becomes myth, the circle repeats, then destructs again, and the remnants are usually what we call art. Hence, Muriel was on my mind when Louis the founder of LX approached me two months later for a curatorial proposal, it seemed somehow relevant to conjure her discerning voice and spirit at this new art space in the Upper East Side, her old stomping grounds.
The exhibition "I Don't Believe in Art, I Believe in Artists" navigates a compositional symphony of mediums including both historical and contemporary artists working in painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography. Here it begins, a line, a mark; form unfolds into a language of visual influence, a collaboration of tectonic moves, a gestural choreography of the eye. The horizontal gravity inherent in the optical notion of a painted landscape converges with the language of abstraction, architecture collapses into a mapping of artist constellations, where the possibility of the formal qualities of a picture plane transforms art into an act, rather than a space of reproduction, surface becomes object, and subject becomes an experience.