Review: The peculiar appeal of Rebecca Morris’ paintings, on view in L.A. between now and May, may have to do with the ways they are made—she uses a variety of acrylic paint in her work, from a thin wash to a thick, opaque mixture that leaves the surface a richly textured work of art unto itself. In Morris’ case, the paint is applied with a sponge, dabbing and painting, rather than with a brush. This painting, created in 2009, was inspired by a recent trip to Europe. (I could relate to Morris’ desire for travel, but I didn’t want to go because I was scared of flying. Instead, I decided to drive there.) In a city like Paris, I found the French capital’s light and shade so ethereal. Looking out over the Seine, the sun appeared to hover over the water, adding to the sense of peacefulness. And to contrast that view, one could look across the street and see the Eiffel Tower—just a black square—in the distance.
In the book of Genesis, the angel Raphael says, “When the morning stars sang together, they made a hymn unto God.” In this painting, Morris and artist Michael Bierut—who has been called “the greatest living artist in America”—created a painting that they call “The Hymn,” in which all the colorful suns and stars in the sky are turned into geometric figures in the earth—the suns, the moons, the stars, and the planets. The entire composition is surrounded by earth instead of heaven.
“It was a very literal painting of a hymn,” Morris tells me, while I sit down in her artist room in downtown Los Angeles. The light is low, with just enough to see out from her work. The artist was excited to see this image on the cover of the Los Angeles Times this summer. “It is a very interesting way of looking at the universe,” she says, but then she says it with a smile—she is almost always smiling.
Morris studied art in