Sarah Morris was born in 1967 in Sevenoaks, Kent, in England, and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. She received a BA from Brown University in Providence in 1989 and then participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program from 1989–90. In 1995–96, she created paintings that were comprised of a single word—for example, “nothing,” “liar,” or “mental”—placed across the entire canvas with a bold immediacy that references magazine headlines and commercial signage. In her Midtown series (1998), Morris simultaneously confronted the skyscraper-dominated terrain of Manhattan and the traditional conceptualization of the grid within the Minimalist tradition, in which the grid sits flat on and parallel to the canvas. Instead, Morris destabilized and tilted the grid to create depths and architectures in brightly pulsating colors of glossy, opaque house paint. In later series dating from 2000–04, she responded to the specific topologies and attributes of other cities: the bombardment of neon in Las Vegas, the administrative buildings of controlling power in Washington, D.C., the poolside glamour of Miami, and the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. Morris also often created films to complement her series of paintings. In the film Los Angeles (2004), the artist turned her lens on the superficiality and indulgence of celebrity-obsessed culture as magnified during the week preceding the Academy Awards. In 2006 Morris installed the painting Robert Towne on the massive ceiling on the ground floor of the Lever House in New York; nested among the midtown skyscrapers lining Park Avenue, this piece both responds to and participates in the urban environment. Morris continued such investigations into cities, recently engaging with Beijing as a site transformed for the Olympics in her series Rings and Oragami (both from 2008).
Solo exhibitions of Morris’s work have been organized by White Cube in London (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008), Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), Kunsthalle Zurich (2000), Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (2001), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (2002), The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut (2005), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam (2006), and Whitechapel Gallery in London (2007). Her work has also been included in major group exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial (1999), AM/PM at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (2000), SITE Santa Fe (2001), São Paulo Bienal (2002), Tate Triennial Exhibition of Contemporary British Art in London (2003), Out of Time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2007), and Shapes of Space at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2007). Morris’s achievements have been recognized with the Philip Morris Award from the American Academy (1999–2000) and the Joan Mitchell Painting Award (2001–02). Morris lives and works in London and New York.