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Painter and filmmaker Sarah Morris explores the semiotics of the urban space. Her colorful large-scale paintings recall early 20th-century hard-edged geometric abstraction and evoke the history of the modernist grid. But far from an exercise in formalism, Morris’s compositions reference the network of power relationships and communication systems encoded in the architecture of late capitalism.
Executed in household gloss and saturated neon colors to achieve a slick industrial sheen that echoes their subjects, Morris’s paintings isolate and abstract iconic architecture, reducing the facades of various structures to angled grids with colored cells that suggest the reflected glow of the urban environment. Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas) belongs to a series of paintings based on hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas strip. The artist was interested in the way in which Las Vegas hotels integrate giant electronic billboards that advertise no product but themselves, thereby echoing the hermetic and self-referential nature of much of abstract painting. In such works, Morris mimics the way in which architecture serves as a seductive sign for corporate power—in this case, that of the entertainment industry.