“There are certain categories that continue to repeat themselves, whether they be cars, buildings, or a certain exchange between people. You have the same sort of catalogue of gestures, a catalogue of moments, but they mean different things in all the different circumstances…”
“I am not interested in documentaries, I do not believe in any kind of objectivity.”
— Sarah Morris
Sarah Morris: Sawdust and Tinsel is an exhibition of the artist’s painting and film, examining the tensions and mythologies of contemporary urban centers. Since the mid-1990s, Morris has developed a vocabulary of abstraction to investigate what she describes as “urban, social, and bureaucratic typologies.” Positioning itself as an urban outlier, New Orleans has insisted throughout its history on a brand of cultural and social independence from conventional urban archetypes. Morris’s city portraits, with their reliance on repetition and pattern, refuse myths of originality, seizing instead on behavioral, architectural, and aesthetic redundancies. Everything is familiar in Morris’s work, a field of flagrant and unapologetic appropriation of corporate iconography, Warholian pop, minimalist seriality, and modernist architectural geometries.
In her paintings and films, Morris has built a semiotics of capital and power structures. From New York to Los Angeles, Paris to Beijing, she has mined what she describes as the “conspiratorial” worlds of art, media, cinema, and politics. Sawdust and Tinsel is a constellation of the artist’s portraits from her series on Rio De Janeiro, Paris, and Abu Dhabi. An arranged investigation into industrial and/or cultural production, Sawdust and Tinsel examines the ambiguities between cultural authenticity, theater, and machine.
The exhibition takes its name from Ingmar Bergman’s 1953 film drama of an aging circus ringmaster, the power struggle of human relationship, set against the backdrop of persistent carnival. The city of New Orleans was founded on speculation in France’s imperial imagination, and has subsisted throughout much of its history on an abundance of seemingly renewable resources in the form of cultural currency. On the three hundredth anniversary of this city, Morris’s work begs timely questions about the differences between culture and industry, ritual and performance, real cities and faux bourgs.
This exhibition is organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (CAC), and curated by Andrea Andersson, The Helis Foundation Chief Curator of Visual Arts at the CAC.
This exhibition is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works. Additional support is provided by the Azby Fund, Sydney & Walda Besthoff, The Helis Foundation, Petzel Gallery, New York, and the Visual Arts Exhibition Fund: Anonymous, Valerie Besthoff, Bryan Bailey, Anna & Scott Dunbar, Felicity Property Co., and Aimée & Mike Siegel.
This exhibition is also supported in part by a Community Arts Grant made possible by the City of New Orleans and administered by the Arts Council New Orleans, as well as by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council.