Robert Holland Murray (b. 1939 Detroit MI; d. 2017 Montréal, QC) was a visual artist who created works in a wide range of media — paintings, quilts, drawing, lithographs, collages, assemblages, sculptures, and installations. For Murray, the practice of art was both an intensely personal and profoundly cultural activity.

His work drew its inspiration equally from the richness of lived Black experience and modernist notions of play and formal invention. From his early hard-edge paintings, infused with references to the Bahá’í faith, the subtly sly Hair Pieces and the eclectic, eccentric assemblages of the 1980s, to the profoundly moving Parallax(e) and Nexus series, Murray’s work captured and celebrated the contrariety and dynamic complexity of contemporary Black identity. Over the course of his more than four decade-long career, he came to be recognized as one of Montreal’s most accomplished and powerful artists.

A native of Detroit, Murray relocated to Montreal in 1967, following a visit to Expo ‘67 in the aftermath of the Detroit Rebellion. In 1969, he was selected for Seven Black Artists, the landmark exhibition at the Detroit Artists Market, which was the first exhibition held in Detroit to exclusively feature the work of Black artists. In 1974, Murray completed a BFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan, and was the first African American to graduate from that institution with a specialization in Printmaking. Between 1975 and 2008, Murray taught painting and drawing in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University, the first Black artist to teach fine arts at a Quebec university.

He began exhibiting under the name R. Holland Murray in 1983, adopting his mother’s maiden name in part to distinguish his work from that of the established Canadian sculptor, Robert (Gray) Murray. Significant solo exhibitions of his work in Canada included Recent Work at the Eye Level Gallery, Halifax (1983), Ecto Endo at Gallery Optica, Montreal (1983), Parallax(e) at Galerie Oboro, Montreal (1995), Recent Work at the Saidye Bronfman Center, Montreal (1999), and No Safety Zone at the Foreman Art Gallery at Bishop’s University, Lennoxville, Quebec (2001).

interview recent work/oeuvres récentes
c. David Liss, Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts, 1999


Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Québec
Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal
, Montréal, Québec
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec City, Québec
Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec,
Montréal, Québec
Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa, Ontario
Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan
Concordia University, Montréal, Québec
Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant, Brantford, Ontario
Heritage House, Detroit, Michigan
Robert H. Tannahill Collection, Detroit, Michigan
Ministère de l'immigration et des communautés culturelles, Montréal, Québec

Selected Exhibitions

2022 — R. Holland Murray: unpacking / selected works (curator: David Elliott), Fondation Guido Molinari, Montréal, Québec

2007 — FUNK x 2: Robert Holland Murray / Oscar Varese (curator: David Elliott), FOFA Gallery, Montréal, Québec

2003 — New Works: Charles McGee/Robert Holland Murray, Detroit Artists Market, Flint, Michigan

2001 — No Safety Zone (curator: Gaetane Verna), Foreman Art Gallery, Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Quebec

1999 — R. Holland Murray: Recent Work (curator: David Liss), Galerie Liane et Danny Taran du Centre Arts Saidye Bronfman, Montreal, Quebec

1995 — Parallax(e), Galerie Oboro, Montreal, Quebec

1990 — Depoteque: Exposition Collectives, Depoteque, Montreal, Quebec

1987 — R. Holland Murray: Recent Work, Art 45, Montreal, Quebec

1987 — R. Holland Murray / Charles McGee, Buckham Fine Arts Project, Flint, Michigan

1986 — Oeuvres inedites, with Thomas Corriveau, Peter Krausz, Irene F. Whittome. Studio Blanc, Montreal Studio Blanc, Montreal, Quebec

1985 — R. Holland Murray / Murray MacDonald (curator: Allen Pringle), Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec

1985 — Masks: R. Holland Murray / Russell T. Gordon, Maison de la Culture He Cote des Neiges, Montreal, Quebec

1983 — R. Holland Murray: Recent Work, Eye Level Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia

1983 — Ecto-Endo, Optica Centre for Contemporary Art, Montreal, Quebec

1983 — Coups d'eclat, with David Elliott, Christiane Gauthier, Sylvie Guimond, Tom Hopkins and Susan Scott. Michel Tetreault Art contemporain, Montreal, Quebec

1978 — Recent Paintings: A Self-Portrait, Gallery 7, Detroit, Michigan

1978 — 20th Century Afro-American Art from the Collection, Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan

1977 — American Black Art: Black Belt to Hill Country, the Known and the New, with Benny Andrews, Steve Ashby, Richmond Barthe, Romare Bearden, Bruce Brice, Bernie Casey, Nathaniel Choate, Paul Collins, John E. Dowell, Robert S. Duncanson, Reginald Gammon, Sam Gilliam, Russell T. Gordon, Ray Hamilton, David Hammons, Rufus Hinton, Jenelsie Holloway, Richard Hunt, Clementine Hunter, Lester L. Johnson, Sargent Johnson, W. H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Al Loving, Charles McGee, Allie McGhee, Richard Mayhew, Robert Merriweather, Keith Morrison, Archibald Motley, Inez Nathaniel, Leslie Payne, Elijah Pierce, Robert Reid (as Reed), Mahler Ryder, Betye Saar, William Edouard Scott, Charles Sebree, Henry O. Tanner, Wilson E. Thompson, Charles White, Walter J. Williams, Hale Woodruff, Joseph Yoakum. Battle Creek Art Center, Battle Creek, Michigan

1969 — 7 Black Artists, (curator: Charles McGee) with Lester Johnson, Henri Umbaji King, Charles McGee, James Lee, James Strickland, Harold Neal, and Robert J. Stull. Detroit Artist Market, Detroit, Michigan

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