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Sarah Morris

Los Angeles

3 June – 10 July 2004


3 June – 10 July 2004

For her exhibition at White Cube Hoxton Square Sarah Morris exhibited a body of new paintings and a film based on Los Angeles. The work focused on the city's unique and spectacular architecture, its sprawling, de-centred urban plan and, most importantly, its role as a centre for image production.

Morris makes complex, physical paintings that use rigorous over-all grids and luridly bright colours, executed in brilliant household gloss paint on square-format canvases. Her paintings have become increasingly disorientating over time, with their internal vortex-like spaces working to pull the picture beyond the reality of the canvas as a two-dimensional object. This new series of paintings are a development from Morris' earlier work since their grids are more fragmentary. In paintings such as ‘Bonaventure [Los Angeles]’ Morris has used octagons to form the image, obliquely referencing the city's layout as well as hinting at the clustered and bureaucratic social network of a city that constantly shifts between documentary and fiction. In the painting, ‘Century Plaza [Los Angeles]’ the grid is reduced to a few single lines or vectors that cut dramatically across the canvas, leading the eye to the edge of and beyond the picture plane, its schematised reduction akin to a mental image of a particular and temporal urban view.

In first floor gallery, Morris presented her new film Los Angeles, the fifth film she had made that posits the city as a hyper-narrative within a very distinct duration of time. In Capital, Morris shot Washington, DC, during the last days of the Clinton administration and in Los Angeles, the city is caught at its most ebullient and narcissistic moment: the week running up to and including the Oscars. Morris has described her films as ‘condensed manifestos’ for the paintings, in the sense that they are a compendium of images and situations that could provide the visual source and psychological complexity from which the paintings begin and abstractly devolve. In ‘Los Angeles’ well-known sites of the city such as a John Lautner house from 1971, the Bonaventure Hotel, the Creative Artists Agency, Mulholland Drive or the Wells Fargo building in Beverly Hills are set to an original musical score that works in parallel to the images.

Morris is adept at using the methods of seduction and deflection as a visual and conceptual strategy in her work. Her films investigate both the surface of a city – its architecture and geography – as well as its ‘interior’: the psychology of its inhabitants and key players. Los Angeles gives an ‘inside' look at an industry that is fuelled by fantasy (shots of Botox injections and laser eye surgery, for example, are paired with shots of the rehearsals of the Oscars) and the relationship between studio, producer, director and talent is exposed in scenes with legendary producers such as Dino de Laurentiis and Robert Evans alongside numerous Hollywood ‘A-list’ actors. Morris employs very different kinds of cinematography – from documentary recording to apparently narrative scenarios – that work as a method of visual distraction (what Martin Prinzhorn has termed ‘automatist closure’), a way of exploring the urban environment, and more particularly its issues of social power and representation.

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