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Murray Favro (1940- ) is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, sculptor, and musician based in London, Ontario. He is known for his multimedia installations and his work with the Nihilist Spasm Band, of which he is a founding member.
Favro was born in Huntsville, Ontario where he lived until moving to London, Ontario in 1957 with his mother. Here he attended the H.B. Beal Technical and Commercial School (1958-62), where he studied art and became acquainted with a number of other artists in the area. In 1968 Favro married Judith Bryon, and their son, Mark, was born in 1969. After receiving a Canada Council Arts Bursary in 1970 he was able to leave a job as a commercial artist at a printing company and begin working on creating and exhibiting his art full time.
Throughout his career Favro has worked with a diverse range of materials and mediums, including paint, sculpture, projections, film, instruments, and machinery, although he is perhaps best known for his projected reconstructions and technical objects, which cross the borders between art and invention. Much of his work reflects a strong interest in perspective, the relationships between art and science, and technology, and is known to challenge traditional categorization. Two major retrospective exhibitions of Favro’s work have been held to date, the first by the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1983 and the second by the London Regional Art and Historical Museums and the McIntosh Gallery in 1998.
In addition to his artistic career, Favro is the guitarist for the Nihilist Spasm Band, which he founded alongside John Boyle, John Clement, Greg Curnoe, Bill Exley, Art Pratten, Archie Leitch, and Hugh McIntyre in 1965. Favro has described his work with the band as influential and parallel to his work as an artist, noting the band’s lack of hierarchy and their music’s lack of structure as intentional and significant. The instruments he plays as guitarist for the band are of his own creation, as are a number of the instruments played by other members of the band. They have performed shows across Canada and internationally, including an appearance at the Paris Biennale in the 1970s and at least two Japan tours in 1996 and 1999.
Throughout his career Favro has given artist talks and lectures at institutions across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, and taught classes at the Ontario College of Art in the 1970s. Together with a number of other artists who were active in London in the 1960s and 70s, such as Jack Chambers and Tony Urquhart, he was involved with some of the first artist-run galleries in Canada, namely the 2020 Gallery, which existed from 1966-1970 and the Forest City Gallery, founded in 1973.
Favro’s work is held and has been exhibited by many major art institutions and private collections across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Montreal Fine Arts Museum. He has been represented variously by the Carmen Lamanna Gallery and the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto. Favro received the Gerhson Iskowitz Award in 1997 and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2007.
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Created 12 July 2019. Revised 16 February 2023 by Camille McDayter.
Fleming, Marie. 1983. Murray Favro: A retrospective. Art Gallery of Ontario.
Fones, Robert, Helga Pakasaar, Matthew Teitlebaum and Peter White. 1998. Murray Favro. Virago Press.
Doherty, Nida Home. “Aiden Urquhart interviews London artist Murray Favro.” Interview by Aiden Urquhart. Centred.ca, April 25 2020. https://centred.ca/aidan-urquhart-interviews-london-artist-murray-favro/.