Rebecca Morris is best known for large-scale abstract paintings and an inventive approach to composition. Her works consist of lively color, organic patterns, and gesture. She uses the grid as an organizing structure. On this foundation, she builds up flat surfaces with tightly wrought geometric shapes in a variety of textures. In her paintings can be found motifs of atomization; patterns, grids, and checkerboards; interlocking geometric forms; painted borders; and colors of metallic hues and saturated tones.
Morris received her B.A. from Smith College and her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and graduated in 1994. She has taught in many colleges, some of which are Columbia University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York’s School of Visual Arts, and Cal State LA. She has worked for some 25 years in Los Angeles.
A recurring theme in her work is an absence of an overtly visible organizing structure. While there is a consistent location of the grid, her brushwork makes her grids deliberately imperfect. Sometimes a faint grid will appear; other times the grid becomes a border or is contained inside a geometric shape. Without a reference point, the viewer’s eye travels across the canvas.
Her techniques include erasure, dripping, and spray painting on canvases that are placed on the floor. When she first began painting, she used browns and colors on the dark scale making her work heavy and opaque. She liked to paint on canvases face up on the floor so that the thin paint would not drip off the surface. As her scale increased and as she began to paint much larger pieces she figured out a way to build color on a white surface. She used light applications of thin paint which allowed for the use of brighter colors.
Among a backdrop of her abstract geometric forms there is one distinct shape that she often makes, and it first appeared in 2006. It is a jagged, pointed form that Morris calls her “lobster claw.” It looks like a triangle or a wedge. It softens the rigid conventions of typical geometric abstraction and allows her to layer textures and colors onto the painting’s surface.
Morris has exhibited in the Los Angeles Museum of Ceramic Art. She had her first solo museum presentation at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 2003. She returned to this museum, now called the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (ICA LA,) with a major survey of 27 paintings made during the last 21 years. This exhibit will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in the Fall of 2023. She has had other solo exhibitions in Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum, Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Renaissance Society, and others.
Her work is in the permanent collections of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Hammer Museum; Chicago’s De Paul Art Museum and Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Art Museum; and museums in Germany and the Netherlands.