Since the mid-1990s, Sarah Morris has been making abstract paintings and films to investigate what she describes as “urban, social and bureaucratic typologies”. These works, based on different cities, are derived from close inspection of architectural details combined with a critical sensitivity to the psychology of a city and its key protagonists.
Morris began her career making graphic paintings that adapted the dramatic, emotive language used in newspaper and advertising tag lines. Her city-based paintings are executed in household gloss paint on square canvases, employing rigorous, all-over grids that reference architectural motifs, signs or urban vistas. Their vivid colours derive from each city’s unique vocabulary and palette, but, most importantly, its dynamic. In her film work, Morris both seduces and alienates the viewer, employing different kinds of cinematography, from documentary recording to seemingly set-up narrative scenarios. In her film Los Angeles (2005), for instance, Morris explores an industry fuelled by fantasy and examines the trenchant relationship between studio, producer, director and talent. In Capital, part of Morris' series about Washington DC, Morris gained unprecedented access to the inside workings of Clinton's last days in office.
Following Los Angeles, Morris embarked on more intimate portrait films, such as Robert Towne (2005) and 1972 (2008), which shift the viewpoint from the panorama of a city to an individual portrait of one of its protagonists, as a way of examining it from the inside out.Following these works, Morris made Beijing (2008), a film about one of the most intricate and ambiguous international broadcasted events of past years – the 2008 Olympic Games.
Morris most recent series of work about Rio de Janeiro depicts the multifarious and complex layers of this most contradictory of cities, from its highly orchestrated and eroticised surface image, to its vast urban sprawl. In the new series of ‘Rio’ paintings, Morris both expands and reduces her abstract compositions, and in the Rio film, images of Rio’s beaches, fruit stands, hospitals, iconic modernist architecture, football stadiums, factories and favelas are combined with images from the office of Oscar Niemeyer, the mayor of Rio and the parades of the city's famous Carnival.
Sarah Morris was born in 1967 in the UK and lives and works in New York and London. She has participated in many important exhibitions including 4th Site Santa Fe Biennial (2001), 25th São Paolo Biennial (2002) and ‘Days Like These’, Tate Triennial (2003). Solo exhibitions include Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2001), Kunstforeningen, Copenhagen (2004), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2005), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2005), Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover (2005) and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2006), Fondation Beyeler (2008), Lenbachaus, Munich (2008), MAMbo, Bologna (2009), and MMK, Frankfurt (2009).