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Stein Prize awarded to artist who redefines drawing

March 28, 2017 // by Denise M. Reagan

Drawing inspiration from humanity and the world around him, this year's Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize winner is as ambitious as he is witty. Upon careful consideration, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida, proudly announces Ethan Murrow as the 2017 recipient. Stretching the imagination with his photorealistic scenes and often monumental pieces, Murrow is redefining the art of drawing in a modern world.

Stein Prize Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Portrait Plethora 885 crop
“By elevating and reinventing the medium of drawing, Ethan Murrow is the embodiment of what the Stein Prize represents,” said MOCA Director Caitlín Doherty. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

Highlighting the work of emerging artists is at the core of MOCA Jacksonville's artistic and educational mission. As an organization that promotes the discovery, knowledge, and advancement of the art, artists, and ideas of our time, MOCA endeavors to identify, highlight, and support the work of young, talented visual artists who promise to alter the course of contemporary art locally, regionally, and nationally.

“The Stein Prize recognizes the work of emerging artists who are changing the way we think about contemporary art,” said MOCA Director Caitlín Doherty. “By elevating and reinventing the medium of drawing, Ethan Murrow is the embodiment of what the Stein Prize represents.”

Established in 2015, the Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize is given on an annual basis in recognition of an artist, chosen from one of MOCA's self-curated exhibitions, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent, innovation, and promise.

Stein Prize Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Plethora Members Preview 885 full
"Murrow's painstakingly detailed works illustrate not only how he continues to master his medium, but how he uses art as a vehicle to address social issues," said MOCA Curator Jaime DeSimone. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

Murrow is the second artist selected for this prestigious prize. He returns to Jacksonville May 24-25 to participate in a number of programs related to drawing. The plans include a collaborative mural project with students at LaVilla School of the Arts and an afternoon with the UNF Department of Art and Design faculty and students. MOCA Jacksonville brings back the popular program Draw and Drink with guided drawing exercises by Murrow. The first-ever recipient of the Stein Prize in 2016 was artist Jackie Saccoccio, a painter based in New York and Connecticut.

“Murrow's artistic practice reinvigorated the Museum and community with the genre of drawing,” said MOCA Jacksonville Curator Jaime DeSimone. “Our visitors marveled at the development of his wall drawing Plethora on view in 2016, which was one of his most ambitious drawings to date. Murrow's painstakingly detailed works illustrate not only how he continues to master his medium, but how he uses art as a vehicle to address social issues.”

In his 2016 Project Atrium exhibition Plethora, Murrow produced a larger-than-life human figure caught in the act of indulgence using Sharpies and projected photographs as a guide. As the figure devours masses of fresh food, the site-specific wall drawing exposes a moment of excess, gluttony, desire, and privilege. Inspired by still-life paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, Murrow's absurd fête questions the role of consumption and history of commerce as his character delves into his insatiable desires. 

Brooke and Hap Stein
Brooke and Hap Stein established the Stein Prize in 2015 to recognize an emerging artist, chosen from one of MOCA Jacksonville’s self-curated exhibitions, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent, innovation, and promise.

"Ethan and his work touch every aspect of what the Stein Prize represents and recognizes,” Brooke Stein said. “His detailed drawings are incredible and his collaborative project was beloved by the community. While we're always sad to see Project Atrium pieces conclude, we are excited for his return visit to share more of his talents with Jacksonville."

Ethan Murrow received his bachelor's degree from Carleton College and his MFA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Recent solo shows of drawings, video, and sculpture include La Galerie Particulière in Paris and Brussels, Slete Gallery in Los Angeles, Winston Wachter Fine Art in New York City and Seattle, and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in West Virginia. Murrow was recently commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston to build a two-story wall drawing for the Feinberg Art Wall in the museum's lobby.

“Humans are very good at inventing things, telling stories that embellish, cover up, exacerbate, lay claim to, or reveal things about who we are and what we have done,” Murrow said.

Murrow recently participated as artist-in-residence at Facebook, was a fellow at the Ballinglen Foundation in Ireland, received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Drawing, and was included in the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park's Biennial with a three-story wall drawing. His work is in many public, private, and corporate collections and has been reviewed and published widely around the world.

A monograph on his work came out in fall 2015 with the German publisher Hatje Cantz. His film project Dust, with Harvest Films and wife, Vita Weinstein Murrow, was an official selection of the 2008 New York Film Festival. Murrow is a professor at the Museum School at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Stein Prize Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Plethora 885 full
In his 2016 Project Atrium exhibition Plethora, Murrow produced a larger-than-life human figure caught in the act of indulgence using Sharpies and projected photographs as a guide. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

“I am deeply honored by this news and grateful to MOCA and the Steins for their support of my projects. Conceiving of and constructing Plethora with MOCA was a defining moment in my career, and I am thrilled to build more connections with Jacksonville and the Museum,” Murrow said.

As part of MOCA Jacksonville's commitment to emerging artists, MOCA Jacksonville will also acquire a drawing by Murrow for the Permanent Collection.

The Stein Prize provides prominence and prestige for the artists and MOCA Jacksonville alike. The benefits for the artists include display of their work in a MOCA Jacksonville exhibition, a public program at the Museum, acquisition of a work for the Permanent Collection, and a stipend.

MOCA Jacksonville's curatorial staff selects one artist per year to receive the Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize. The selection is based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:

  • The artist must be represented in a featured exhibition or Project Atrium series at MOCA that year.
  • The artist will have demonstrated exceptional creativity and outstanding achievement, including a significant body of work in a signature style.
  • The compelling nature of the artist's ideas and contributions to the field.
  • The artist's commitment to developing their work and whose future artistic contributions promises to be lasting.
  • The prize is open to visual artists of all media.
  • Applications are not accepted for this prize. 
Ethan Murrow Draws Hand b
Ethan Murrow draws a hand based on a photo of his own hand. Image courtesy of Denise M. Reagan.

Since appearing at MOCA, Murrow and his wife Vita Murrow have been nominated for the 2017 CILIP Kate Greenaway medal for distinguished illustration longlist, the United Kingdom's most prestigious children's book prize. The Whale, illustrated by Ethan and written by Vita, was published in Europe with Big Picture Press and in the United States shortly after that with Candlewick Press.

In September 2016, Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York presented Water Almanac, an exhibition of new work by Murrow. The exhibition creates black and white photo-realist narratives that celebrate the human tendency to regulate the natural world. Murrow has commented that “our humble status as minions under the clouds means we have always looked to the irrational and fantastical as much as the rational to help us understand what is coming.”

Murrow is currently making new drawings for a solo exhibition at Winston Wächter Fine Art, Seattle, later this year.

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