In conjunction with the Todd Murphy estate, the Bill Lowe Gallery will mount a major show of the artist’s work in October, it was announced today.
According to gallery director Donovan Johnson, the exhibit will comprise approximately 30 paintings from Murphy’s series Wink, a body of work that challenges the relationship of Black identity and labor in the South through the history of African American jockeys and horse racing. Most of the works were created between 2010 and 2019. Murphy died in 2020.
The exhibit title refers to Jimmy Winkfield, a jockey best remembered as the last African American to ride a winner in the Kentucky Derby. In 2004, Winkfield was inducted posthumously into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame but the names of most Black jockeys have faded from history. African Americans were eventually edged out of the sport. “Todd put a spotlight on them and gave them a heroic stage,” said Johnson.
To accompany the exhibition, the gallery will publish a 150-page catalog chronicling the years of Murphy’s practice that were dedicated to the Wink series. It will include his notes, writings and works from the series, an introductory essay by Maryann Erigha, professor of Sociology and African American Studies at the University of Georgia, and an essay by New York Times art critic Seph Rodney discussing Murphy’s place within a genealogy of artists known for their representational works of horses.
Johnson said the gallery is committed to re-engaging with Atlanta artists like Murphy, who graduated from the University of Georgia and established a successful career in the city in the 1990s before moving to New York. His last exhibit at the Bill Lowe Gallery was in 2001. “Todd was a cinematic personality with a grand vision that melded well with the gallery,” Johnson said, “but it took the entire Atlanta art community to give him a name.”
Murphy’s works are in the collections of the High Museum of Art, the Tampa Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art.