Look closely at artist Sarah Crowner’s graphic paintings. What at first appear to be painted modernist abstractions are in fact assemblages of canvas cutouts—some raw, others coated with pigment—that she has meticulously stitched together. Ranging from simple geometries to more sensuous organic shapes, the motifs call to mind the hard-edged precision of Ellsworth Kelly, Lorser Feitelson, and Lygia Clark. But while bold silhouettes and patterns remain a primary fixation for Crowner, she is equally interested in how things fit together. “It’s a way of creating form by joining material,” Crowner says of her process, which she uses to bring more tactility to the medium. “They are really objects more than paintings.”
Raised in Los Angeles and based in New York since 1999, Crowner exudes a laid-back vibe even as she’s finishing work for two upcoming shows—one opening April 16 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the other debuting at London’s Simon Lee Gallery on May 13. Pieces in progress abound at her sun-splashed Brooklyn studio, amid canvas shapes painted a deep teal hanging on a line to dry and heaps of paper cutouts numbered like tailor’s patterns. Several large-scale compositions repeat a simplified wavelike form inspired by a 1934 work by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, the Swiss Dada powerhouse. “I pull a lot from art history,” Crowner says.
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