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Ryan Steadman on Moyra Davey at Murray Guy


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For the Observer, Ryan Steadman writes about Moyra Davey’s latest show at Murray Guy. Davey, who co-ran the legendary Lower East Side Orchard, is criminally underknown despite being active in the New York art world for decades. Read Steadman in partial below, the full version via the Observer.

What we think of as the past has become so wholly integrated with the present, it’s hard for the human mind to comprehend their relationship to each other anymore. “Old” technology is still present, desired and even fetishized (think record players), while new technologies are so subtle and discreet (streaming movies on phones that fit into your palm), they’re barely detectable and often only pressed into service to distribute the fruits of old technology.

And though it’s hard to argue that past events are undeniably over (though subject to considerable revision) the present is constantly all around us: Unmade beds, sleeping dogs, the alcohol we’ve squirreled away for times of need. In other words, our lives as we live them.

This and more is grist for Canadian artist Moyra Davey’s thoughtful and challenging work, currently on view at the always provocative Murray Guy gallery through May 21.

Ms. Davey, who was one of the founding partners behind the boundary-pushing Orchard gallery in the mid-aughts, is known for working with less conventional gallery fare: photography, film, and even writing, and so her work, at first blush, might seem exclusionary. But it’s not—it’s quite the opposite, in fact.

There is something for everyone in this show: deeply personal narratives, material tactility, nostalgia, art historical references, pop cultural references, poetry and portraiture.

The larger front gallery focuses on Ms. Davey’s photographs, which introduce us to her intimate and quotidian meditations on time and timelessness. Take Newspaper, Coffee, 2015-16, a grid of photographs of purchase receipts for items like a magazine or an album, for instance. The photos that comprise Newspaper, Coffee were all taken with a film camera in the early ‘90s, but the negatives were scanned and colorized by Ms. Davey with a computer in 2016. As a finishing touch to the work, the artist folded, taped and then snail-mailed each photo to her gallery, leaving the address labels and colorful squares of tape in tact for display. This string of processes, which vary in currency yet are all general practice, work together to create an artistic by-product that’s strangely both obsolete and infinite.

Image: Moyra Davey, Newspaper, Coffee, 2015-16. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Murray Guy, New York