Law Cheuk Yui & Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris

B. 1967, SEVENOAKS, U.K.

Born in 1967 in Sevenoaks, U.K., Sarah Morris grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. She received a BA from Brown University, Providence (1989), and then participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York (1989–90). She is celebrated for her geometric abstract paintings, which explore the interplay between the physical architecture in cities and the psychology of urban environments. Revealing the politicized nature of such dynamics, her images evoke urban vistas and motifs found on buildings. For instance, in her Midtown series (1998–99), Morris uses the flatness of the geometry to confront both the skyscraper-dominated terrain of Manhattan and the traditional Minimalist grid. However, the grid is tilted and manipulated to give rise to an illusion of depth. The brightly pulsating colors of glossy, house paint in opaque shapes recall a sense of emptiness characteristic of the contemporary urban experience. In the ensuing decade, she responded to specific topologies and attributes of other cities: the bombardment of neon in Las Vegas; the administrative buildings and halls of power in Washington, D.C.; the poolside glamour of Miami; and the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles.

These paintings parallel her filmic exploration of these cities, captured in what became her signature style: long shots from unexpected angles are set to hypnotic electronic music by the artist Liam Gillick, revealing truths hidden in plain sight. These films defy outright narrative sequencing and invite viewers to bring their own lived experience and preconceptions into dialogue with the abstract shots. For Los Angeles (2004), the artist turned her lens on the superficiality and indulgence of celebrity culture as magnified during the week preceding the Academy Awards. In Beijing (2008), a feature-length portrait of the city made during the anticipated arrival of the Summer Olympics, Morris juxtaposed banality of daily life and the spectacle of the Games. In this transnational melodrama about China’s self-styled emergence as a superpower onto the twenty-first-century world stage, the key figures in that narrative—former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, most decorated Olympian and American swimmer Michael Phelps, and former Beijing mayor Liu Qi—take center stage. This poignant document of an extraordinary historical juncture was included in the Guggenheim Museum exhibition, Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World (2017–18, traveled to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao [2018] and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art [2018–19]).

Solo exhibitions of Morris’s work have been organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000); Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich (2000); Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2001); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (2002); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2005); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2007); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2014); and Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2016–17). Her work has also been included in major group exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial (1999); AM/PM, Neue Nationalgalerie (2000); SITE Santa Fe (2001); São Paulo Biennial (2002); Tate Triennial: Days Like These, London (2003); Out of Time: A Contemporary View, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006–07); The Shapes of Space, Guggenheim Museum (2007); Looking Back for the Future, Kunsthalle Zürich (2012); Touch, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland (2014–18); and Elevation 1049: Avalanche, Luma Foundation, Gstaad, Switzerland (2017). Among other honors, the artist was named a Philip Morris Fellow, American Academy in Berlin (1999–2000), and bestowed with the Joan Mitchell Painting Award (2001–02). Morris lives and works in London and New York.

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