The paintings of Elizabeth Murray embrace both abstraction and Neo-Expressionism, and her cartoonish forms often depict objects from her everyday life, both professional (paintbrush and easel) and domestic (cups and chairs). Murray dabbled in printmaking at every step in her early career, from drawing on lithographic stones as a student, to a graduate assistantship, to her first teaching job, which involved establishing a printmaking studio. Although she enjoyed the creative aspects of printmaking, she was frustrated and discouraged by the technical expertise required. She feared that the delicacy of the printing process did not fit with her own creative style: large, boisterous, colorful paintings that seemed ready to jump off the walls, executed on shaped, sometimes three-dimensional, canvases. Thus it took several years and much cajoling to convince her to resume printmaking.
In 1979 Murray finally accepted an offer from art dealers Brooke Alexander and Paula Cooper to make prints, and she has now made more than one hundred forty editions in a variety of mediums. Initially inspired by seeing an installation of the various states of Picasso's lithographic series The Bull, Murray began an exploration of her own working process in her first prints. She issued a series of five states of a single lithograph intended to be viewed together as one work. Later, collaborating with master printers at Universal Limited Art Editions and Gemini G.E.L., who rose to the technical challenges she presented to them, Murray expanded her printmaking practice to include complex experiments incorporating the shaped forms and three-dimensionality of her paintings. Cracking Cup is one of several such prints that defy the traditional boundaries of printmaking with cut and folded elements that assert themselves into the space of the viewer.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 231.