Ethan Murrow is clearly a talented draftsman and his surreal drawings are of considerable visual complexity; the compositional structure, form and line creating a vitality in every drawing. However, that’s not what interests me. It’s the process that fascinates me for the drawings are the product of collaborative projects that often begin with Murrow and his wife working on a multimedia, performance based artwork in which he creates characters, open ended narratives and short videos that end up as graphite drawings.
It is for this reason that many of his pictures look like photographs, have a documentary feel about them, the character caught between moments, in a single frame. Similar in many ways to the photos of Robert Park-Harrison. Having said that the final composition is a fundamental part of the process, each piece a demonstration of the power of drawing and the beauty of graphite on paper. Here’s what Murrow has to say about his work:
All of the projects I am involved in must be seen within the context of collaboration. I work with others whose ideas and contributions influence, inform and guide me. This process began when my wife Vita Weinstein Murrow began filming, photographing and directing me in performances in 2004. Since then we have often worked as a duo, making short videos together. Often, the still imagery we collect forms the source material for large-scale graphite drawings that are obsessive documents of infatuated characters. Vita still assists and collaborates with me during the project development and performance stages as photos are shot to use for source imagery. Our true collaboration, however, revolves around film and video. An ongoing partnership with Vita and Harvest Films of Santa Monica resulted in the short film “Dust,” an official selection of the 46th annual New York Film festival in 2008.
Despite a focus on working with others, the characters in recent narratives have been consistently averse to criticism and assistance. These figures, mostly male, are doomed to failure and prone to dysfunction. “Zero Sum Pilot,” for example, follows one man’s rigorous and suspect training for unknown aerial goals. He obtains sustained movement through the air, at cost. These are cautionary tales, cynical nods to the pitfalls of egotism and obsessive drive. Since I often play the central character in these dramas I intentionally implicate myself in the conflagration that the protagonists create around themselves. I mean to do this with a nod to Charlie Chaplin, who understood that idiocy is inevitable and our own role in it is assured.
On an aside to this Murrow s the grandson of newscaster Edward R. Murrow, know him? He was once Americas most famous newscasters.