Artist Spotlight: Elinore Schnurr

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We may not live in an era of grand, municipal artworks à la the Works Progress Administration, but worthy commissions are still very much alive. A year after Grand Central Terminal’s centennial, New York–based artist Elinore Schnurr has completed a large-scale painting of the famous railway station. This triptych, titled August Rush, is now on permanent display in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City. The commission came about when Schnurr’s friend Scott Walsh told her about a recessed vertical space in the lobby of a new LIC building he was involved with. For inspiration he showed her a photograph of the Great Hall at the Tate Modern with people rushing forward. “Oh, that looks like Grand Central!” Schnurr said. “Let’s do it!” he said. “It took about a month to put the materials together, to fit the exact space,” Schnurr later told us. “Then I spent three or four months painting it. The figures took the most time, but the windows were the most difficult.” Schnurr explained that her style of painting has less to do with ideas and more to do with play. “It’s something I learned teaching children. I was trying to figure out how they worked. When they paint a boat, it’s not a description of a boat—it’s a boat. Similarly, when I’m making those figures in paint, they are those figures to me. It’s not describing them, it’s making them.” AugustRush_HighRes Schnurr studied figure painting in Cleveland, Ohio, but she came to New York at a time when most artists were doing abstract expressionism. “I got a painting into an exhibit at MoMA in ’62. But they didn’t seem interested in showing the figure again for years.” As a result, Schnurr developed her own style of painting the human form. The figures in the Grand Central triptych, and in her many other series, are not portraits. They have an anonymous quality that the viewer must inhabit, engaging with the work not just on an intellectual level but a social one. Describing the triptych’s crowd scene, Schnurr says, “The basic figures are simplified so that you get the action and the feeling of the person without having a rendering. An illustrative rendering would be so boring to me—it’s the action.” Beyond August Rush, Schnurr has a lot going on in the coming months. Though her recent show Figuratively Speaking in New York City (profiled in Beautiful Savage) is about to close, she’ll be the subject of two solo exhibitions in the LIC Arts Open Festival 2014. If you can’t make it to her openings, you may be able to catch Schnurr herself in her Long Island City studio this weekend (Diego Salazar Art Studios, #105). Barring that, you can always take a little piece of Grand Central home with you. Photo courtesy of Elinore Schnurr CONNECTS_GCT