Magazine article Artforum International

Sarah Morris

Magazine article Artforum International

Sarah Morris

Article excerpt

FRIEDRICH PETZEL GALLERY

Sarah Morris's recent paintings of midtown Manhattan buildings are very New York indeed: stylish, hip, loud, reflexive, and assured. Isolating fragments of the glass-curtain facades, the works are rendered in forceful colors--citron, ocher, electric blue, fuchsia--representing the blazing neon light reflected by neighboring buildings and adjacent advertising signage. The structures Morris focuses on are among the more recognizable in the area, including the Seagram Building, mother ship of International Style, and two Skidmore, Owings & Merrill projects (9 West 57th Street and the Grace Building), both exhibiting the too-showy high-modern hubris characteristic of early '70s Mies spin-offs.

Morris wants to consider the iconic and the larger-than-life, and Midtown is an ideal site for such an excavation. As home to Times Square and corporate Manhattan, this is what the world envisions as the "real New York" (though many New Yorkers have a different perspective). In Midtown--Mountain Dew and Midtown--Suntory Whiskey (all works 1999), Morris interprets a few of the mammoth electronic billboards that light up Times Square's topography. The angled gray, black, and bottle-green grid of Mountain Dew signals brand-name colors but subverts the means of this inescapable imagery--logo recognizability--by zeroing in on sections of the giant pixelated signs, abstracting them, and leaving an aftertaste of urban Pop sensibility. Still, that trace is enough to convey the velocity of the urban spectacle.

These considerably optical paintings revel in metropolitan extremes, presenting vertiginous and nearly impossible angles and points of view. Midtown--HBO/Grace superimposes two perspectives, and many canvases, like Midtown--Crowne Plaza Hotel, simulate the disorienting experience of being at urbanism's ground zero. …

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