Chilkat Audio Guide

Robert Murray

Canadian, born 1936


Painted aluminum
51 × 61 × 81 inches

Photography not permitted
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gifts, 1978

Location: NHB porch
GPS: 30.287532, -97.737791
Audio file

Valerie Fletcher: Robert Murray was born in British Columbia, Canada and came to New York in 1960. The timing of his arrival coincided with the emergence of constructed steel sculptures being done by a number of young sculptors. One of the most notable was the British sculptor, Anthony Caro. This generation of younger artists was building on the innovations of David Smith and other sculptors who had constructed abstract works using sheet metal. David Smith for example had gone to a factory and he was famous in one instance for making 27 or 28 sculptures in less than 30 days working with spontaneity and speed with assistants cutting and welding pieces as he indicated. Murray was in that mode and he liked the industrial aspect of it. He liked to work with heavy sheet steel.

He started out making very simple geometric compositions but by the 1970s, he was recognizing that such austere geometry really was not of the kind of visual appeal that many viewers responded to. And so he made more complex spatial compositions and in this one entitled Chilkat from 1977, he made a form that started out as a flat piece of aluminum, curved it around an industrial roller. And working with technical assistance at the Lippincott Factory, he added vitality to the forms by crunching and folding the edges. In this regard, he recognized that the aluminum itself, though heavy, acquired a sense of vitality by being crumpled and variegated in its forms and its rhythms.