Saturday, March 31, 2007

Too Much Information, Sarah Morris

Thomas DeBari
Friedrich Petzel Gallery

When seen at first, the painting screams Stella at the over looking the audience; second, the long tradition of high modernism. Arriving again, they take on a photshop image quality. Shapes of colors taped off. Saturated colors opaquely applied. The paint quality teeters on a wet thick application and a tight crisp edge from being taped off. The design took the shape by rings falling and intersecting with vertical lines of color. The shapes described the play of the rings and the edges of the canvas. As well as the ring paintings, she also showed paintings of triangle interlocking and expanding in scale. The paintings also seemed to have both the raw canvas as space, but then also as flat background that the shapes were displayed on top of. These paintings were from Origami series. Overall the work aesthetically functions on photoshop and high modernism.

The basis for this work is the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Titles of all the ring paintings correlated to other Olympic years. 1932 Rings was based on Los Angeles and the Depression. The Depression marks the time when the event and the competition would fail. But the competition was fierce. Here though, the link is in her fascination with the Depression and the change of city and mindset. With interests in revolution and change, politically, I wonder if that kind of identity can be found in work executed at such a distance. Other titles were 1952 Rings, the U.S.S.R. returned to the games in Helsinki in strong fashion after being out of it for 40 years. Nineteen fifty two also marks the start of the cold war. Though not started by the strong showing in overall standings. Another was 1972 Rings, the famed summer in Munich, where eight Arabian commandos took hostages and killed two Israeli team members. The games must go on apparently though some of the competitors chose to leave. The other painting was 1984 Rings. These Olympics were boycotted by all but one Warsaw Pact country. Romania was the only one to commit to LA for the games. The competition was weak considering Russia and its communist Allies did not participate. The USA hence took home a record setting number of medals; other individuals set records for capturing a multitude of metals in various events. Also, this Olympics had a corporate sponsor and they made 215 million dollars profit.

The rings in the ring painting conceptually relate to ring roads in China which become extremely congested in travel.

Looking for answerers in the conceptual nature of this work, I find interesting facts that don’t change the way I interact with these paintings. The information while brooding is washed away from the work. The road approach in the decision-making though is interesting. The paintings do have speed and congestion that creates the complexity. All are varied but they do not infer any significance of the games and years themselves.

The paintings are beautiful and through this context of looking which is sometimes forgotten, we see speed, movement and redirection. It is enough to understand the abstraction of traffic. We can see the tie to art history. The content of architectural development, the basis of the work, is stripped and essential. They are warm and funny in some of the decisions made. Some of the lines are comic in the depictions of speed. Certainly the work is from cold starting point but believing her care about the craft and significance of the subject matter, it nestles inside a point of view concerned with the world.

Oddly as much as we don’t see the significance of the games in her titles, she knows them and thus enacts that importance into the craft of the title. The interesting problem is can she invoke some sense of history in them. For her, she wants the viewer to think they were significant games but the disconnect is that she does not tell us why. This seems like a wonderful safety net, not saying anything. She intrigues people to look at the games and wonder what happened. In doing so, the games and politics are more interesting than her paintings conceptually. So what am I going to think about?
I had to write this.

No comments: