Ethan Murrow draws a story of desire in MOCA’s ‘Project Atrium’

Wall drawing exposes the artist’s moment of gluttony in a world of food inequity

Almost every child has the desire to draw on a wall. Ethan Murrow has never lost that fascination, and his work seeks to elevate drawing and connect the art form to the practice we learned in our youth. This July, the Boston-based artist takes his photorealistic drawing practice to the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. He uses 800 black Sharpies to produce a larger-than-life human figure caught after the act of indulgence for his Project Atrium exhibition Plethora, which opens July 16 and runs through October 30.

As the figure leans over piles of fresh food, a large pot obscures his face. Although concealed by the pot, the artist casts himself as the lead character in Plethora. His inclusion nods to his idyllic upbringing and is a tongue-in-cheek statement about the tradition of commissioned portraits to symbolize one’s status. Inspired by still-life paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, the site-specific wall drawing in MOCA Jacksonville’s Atrium Gallery exposes a moment of excess, gluttony, and privilege.

“Mistakes can happen within it, and we can accept changes and work around it.”

The public is invited to observe the drawing process July 5-15, as Murrow and four assistants build up the image with a variety of mark-making techniques. When viewed from a distance, the meticulous details appear crystal clear like a black and white photograph. Upon close inspection, however, their forms dissolve into abstract marks. “Wall drawings are malleable forms,” Murrow told MOCA Jacksonville. “Mistakes can happen within it, and we can accept changes and work around it.”

Ethan Murrow Drawing Tony Rodrigues Thony Aiuppy e

Jacksonville artists Tony Rodrigues and Thony Aiuppy assist Murrow on the Project Atrium drawing. Image courtesy of Denise M. Reagan.
Ethan Murrow Drawing Roy Albert Berry f
Jacksonville artist Roy Albert Berry works on Murrow’s Project Atrium drawing. Image courtesy of Denise M. Reagan.
Ethan Murrow Thony Aiuppy Photo Source g

Thony Aiuppy retrieves one of the photos the artists are using as source material for the drawing. Image courtesy of Denise M. Reagan.
Ethan Murrow Traces Projection h

Murrow traces a faint outline from a projection of the mockup he created for his Project Atrium drawing. Image courtesy of Joe Karably.

In Plethora, the mounds of fresh food relate to past and contemporary gardens and landscapes of North Florida. A lavish spread of maize, squash, fish, melons, cabbage, honey, and more grossly outweighs the need of one man, who indulges in it anyway. Plethora presents the luxury of a food supply, yet probes at the prevalent lack of access to fresh groceries throughout the United States.


Art and Ideas: Ethan Murrow
7-8:30pm, Thu, Jul 7
Attend a discussion with Project Atrium artist Ethan Murrow and learn about his previous work and the process behind the installation at MOCA Jacksonville.
Free and open to the public

Project Atrium: Ethan Murrow Preview
Patrons’ preview 6-7pm, members’ preview 7-9pm. Fri, Jul 15
Be first to view Plethora and enjoy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, music, and mingling with the artist.
For members only

Draw and Drink
6-8, Thu, Jul 28
Sit in the Atrium Gallery, view Ethan Murrow’s Project Atrium drawing Plethora, and sketch your own work, while enjoying drinks and bar bites from NOLA MOCA. Bring your sketchbook and friends for happy hour and food with table service by NOLA MOCA staff.
$5 ticket provides your first drink and one of the Sharpie markers used on Plethora