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Michael Murphy "Perceptual Art"

Exclusive interview with Michael Murphy, artist of Perceptual Art for our July / Latest Man issue by Giampiero Amodeo.

“Sometimes being firm on our position it’s like having a noose around our necks. Sometimes we are so stranded in our opinions that we don’t want to see the other side of the coin. Sometimes instead we should just look at things from a different point of view. Maybe to learn something new, maybe something forgotten, and maybe to know something that we use to hide from ourselves.

Michael Murphy loves to show how changing perspectives reveals another truth, the one that we don’t like to notice at our first glance. Main exponent of the perceptual art movement, his career took off working on the Art For Obama campaign, and now is one of the most discuss and representative artists of his time. Watching his installments from different advantage points offers food for thought about politics, gun control, brand identity, religion and patriotism. Tireless and prolific, he hides in plain sight his personal beliefs in all of his work, with an ambiguous style that veils with mystery even his future projects.”

Latest) More than ten years are passed since your first Obama portrait. Knowing that political topics still permeate a lot of your works, do you think that your future production may endorse again one specific candidate?

No. I don’t think I would ever endorse a politician. If hell froze over and someone invented an honest one I might consider it. I have a personal code of ethics that ensures that I never promote politicians, pharmaceutical companies, pro gun organizations, anything related to the military industrial complex, or any other evil forces.

Many of my works are often ambiguous in their exact meaning. I do this intentionally so that the work can lend themselves to numerous potential interpretations; all of them being correct in a sense. When this is the case the viewers interpretation of the piece becomes somewhat of a reflection of them or their environment. Take Gun Country for example. People on both sides of the gun debate in the US appreciate the piece. Each see the work through their own lenses. The Obama pieces were not endorsements of the candidate. In these works the the technique was a key part of the messaging. They were mediated illusion. They were portraits of an individual that didn’t really exist. Take the shadow portraits for example. When you turned the lights on they disappeared. The shadows were another component of the messaging; a reference to the government entities that operate in the shadows - behind the scenes.

Latest) The observer’s point of view has a prominent role in Art, maybe as prominent as the artist himself. But often the artist intentionally avoids to highlight this aspect. Do you feel that your works are a little more sincere about this?

Perspective, point of view, and vantage point are all very relevant expressions in the description of my work. Just as I often use the technique as metaphor and a part of the messaging, these expressions or descriptors are also conceptual component of the work...

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