Malcolm Morley

16 April - 6 June 2015
Sperone Westwater, New York
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Press release

Sperone Westwater is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by Malcolm Morley, his fifth since his debut at the gallery in 1999, comprising 15 new paintings completed between 2013 and 2015. This newest body of work expands upon familiar Morley motifs – fighter planes and battleships are set alongside imagery from disparate historical periods including Viking ships, medieval castles, and lighthouses. These seemingly incongruent elements coalesce under Morley’s unique artistic vision.

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Aircraft on a Yellow Plane, 2014
oil on linen
50 x 40 inches (127 x 101,5 cm)

A large-scale triptych, Trafalgar Waterloo (2013), depicts famed generals Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. A detail of a cannon from the HMS Victory serves as the subject of the central panel, separating the two examples of British military force. Rendered in three dimensions, this handcrafted cannon juts out of the canvas into the gallery space – a prime example of Morley’s interest in heightening the viewer’s sensation and experience of his work. In his catalogue essay, Sir Norman Rosenthal observes that in this moment, “Malcolm is finding another imaginative pictorial solution for his oft declared personally nuanced sense of the irrelevance of the ideological differentiation between the image and the abstract—the only reality is the painting itself—its own otherness compared to the world outside it.”

In Aircraft on a Yellow Plane (2014), Morley begins to let go of the grid that has traditionally served as his guide. This lyrical painting takes a field of boldly colored fighter planes as its subject matter. Arranged wing-to-wing in loose formation, they appear more playroom fantasy than military drill. Although the underpainted grid remains visible in some areas of the canvas, the artist is no longer beholden to it and, at its edges, the painting begins to move from representation toward abstraction.


The newest works on view push this experimentation even further. Here, vintage paper model sets serve as Morley’s source material. Inspired by the Comte de Lautreamont’s famous image of the “chance meeting on a dissection table of a sewing machine and an umbrella” in Les Chants de Maldoror, the artist allows one element to suggest the next. In Dakota (2015), for instance, Morley began with a DC-3 plane, which brought to mind the image of a lighthouse. The result is an amalgamation of diverse historical and stylistic components that, taken together, engage in a spirited and unexpected dialogue. Over the course of his distinguished career, Morley has defied stylistic characterization, moving by turns through so-called abstract, realist, neo-romantic, and neo-expressionist painterly modes, while being attentive to his biographical experiences. In these latest powerful, dynamic, and playful paintings, Morley continues to advance a sensibility that is entirely his own.


Born in London in 1931, Malcolm Morley has lived in and around New York City since 1958. Morley studied at the Camberwell College of Arts and the Royal College of Art. Since his first New York show in 1964, he has had numerous exhibitions in Europe and North America including retrospectives at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1983); the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1993); Fundación La Caixa, Madrid, which travelled to the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (1995-96); the Hayward Gallery, London (2001); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (2006). Recent exhibitions include “Malcolm Morley in a Nutshell: The Fine Art of Painting 1954-2012” at the Yale School of Art (2012), “Malcolm Morley: Painting, Paper, Process” at the Parrish Art Museum (2012-13), and an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, organized with the Hall Art Foundation (2013-14). In addition to receiving the inaugural Turner Prize in 1984, Morley was awarded the Painting Award from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1992 and the Francis J. Greenburger Award in 2015. His work can be found in museum collections worldwide.


An opening reception for the artist will be held on Thursday 16 April from 6-8pm. A catalogue with a text by Sir Norman Rosenthal will be published on the occasion of this exhibition. For more information, please contact:


Gallery Contact:
 Allyson Shea allyson@speronewestwater.com +1 212 999 7337
Media Contact:
 Justin Conner, Third Eye justin@hellothirdeye.com +1 646 593 8713
 

Artists in this Exhibition

Exhibition publications

Exhibition press

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Malcolm Morley
by Phyllis Tuchman
October 2015
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Malcolm Morley's Moment
by Julie Belcove
23 April 2015
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David Ebony's Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for April
by David Ebony
22 April 2015
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Heavy Artillery: At 83, Malcolm Morley is Still Doing Battle
by John Chiaverina
21 April 2015
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Malcolm Morley and the Self
by Emily McDermott
20 April 2015
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Now in His 80s, Malcolm Morley Is Still Finding New Ways of Looking
by Julie Baumgardner
15 April 2015