An introduction to some of the works in the exhibition
Morgan Fisher

Ground floor


The Times Atlas of the World, Mid-Century Edition

Books were the subject of my first mature paintings. The covers of most books I like are monochromes if the titles are left out, but they are monochromes that represent something. The books I’ve made paintings from are ones that I love. In this work the relief pieces are the books, and the wall that each is on is the color of the dust jacket. They are in the order in which they were published, one in each of five successive years. This is the first time that painted walls have been part of my work.


Standard Gauge

When I was working around 35mm film I collected bits and pieces of it. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know what to do with them until it occurred to me to make a film that showed them while I talked about them. Standard Gauge is a film of fragments: what you see are fragments and the narration is fragments of an autobiography and fragments of film history and technology. But the film presents these fragments in one continuous shot.



In classical Greek the word parenthesis means the ‘action of inserting’. ( ) consists of inserts, a kind of shot in narrative films that shows details necessary to the story. Inserts are the most purely instrumental of shots. We tend not to notice them because we see only the point they make. ( ) liberates inserts from their stories so you can see them for themselves. I couldn’t edit the film because that would have re-instrumentalized the shots. Instead I chose a rule that constructed the film, assigning each shot its place. The rule has nothing to do with what is happening in the shots, so what happens at each cut is a matter of chance.


Ultra Panavision 70 2.76:1

Cinemascope 2.35:1

Todd-AO 2.20:1

These three works are from a group of nine called the Aspect Ratio Pieces. All of them have the proportions of film frames. If you stand in front of these pieces, as you would to watch a film or look at a painting or a photograph, you are looking at yourself. If you move around to find different ways of looking at the work, you become aware of the edges of the mirror, or the edges of the frame, and so you become aware of one of the things that commercial films do their best to keep you from seeing.



From the beginning of my mature work as a painter my interest has been the monochrome. The monochrome goes far to avoid composition, an overriding wish of mine from my earliest work. By chance I found a rule that states the surface area for a human body of a given height and weight. Self-Portrait is as long as I am tall, and dividing the length into the surface area gave the width. The painting is a monochrome, but its dimensions make it a representational painting.


Red Boxing Gloves / Orange Kitchen Gloves

The basis of this work was the principle of complements. Complements are two things that make a whole; simply put, complements are a pair. Male and female are conventional complements, and the objects in the photographs have conventional associations with them. And complements are present in the pairs of colors in each photograph: red and green, orange and blue. Complements express a relation of contrast, and the work enacts this by being in two parts. Their being the same size embodies the equality that complements usually imply. Each part is not the other, but each requires the other to complete it. These are the only photographs I have ever shown.


Window Painting

This is a new version of one of the paintings in the group the Door and Window Paintings that I first did in 2002. The Door and Window Paintings, like the Edge and Corner Paintings, are created by architectural details in specific sites that also determine their placement, but they can be hung elsewhere if they maintain insofar as possible the same relation to the new site that they had to the old.


Wedge Piece

The Wedge Piece is the counterpart to an existing wedge-shaped detail in the architecture of the gallery. I wish I could say that the existing wedge created the Wedge Piece and so left me out of it. The relation between the two is reciprocal, and together they are a work. The Wedge Piece requires to be shown in this relation to the detail of which it is a counterpart, on which it is contingent and which it completes.


H Pieces

I had made a series of paintings on paper with gouache. There was a blocky shape more or less in the middle, and part of each edge of the block extended out to the edge of the paper. The shapes were all more or less the same and all were the same gray. The shapes got simpler and became symmetrical, not exactly symmetrical but close enough that it was recognizable as such. Then I realized that all I was interested in was the shape. A way to get just the shape was to tear it out of paper. An H implies a rectangle without being one. Within the limits of a rectangle there can be infinite variation.


Sawdust Painting

I did the Sawdust Paintings right after I finished a group of paintings called the Italian Paintings, from which they could not be more different. The Italian Paintings required precise carpentry and had to be handled with extreme care. I made the Sawdust Paintings with the debris created by the Italian Paintings. I worked fast, putting glue on the paper in a few seconds, then put the paper face down on the floor and stepped on it. I didn’t know what they looked like until I turned them over.


Pepsi Case Pieces

In the hall near the office where I worked in the late sixties was a Pepsi machine, and with it were some wooden Pepsi cases. A Pepsi case combined several of my interests then. They were a pop subject, and they were a grid, a standard device in modernist work. The blueprint and Xerox are from a drawing done in isometric, a kind of technical drawing that interested me because it drastically limits how you can depict the object. The dimensions are those of the actual object, modified by turning it into a hyperbolic paraboloid, a shape I admired because in it straight lines produce (surprisingly, to me) a surface that curves in two directions.


Edge and Corner Painting

This is a new version of work I first did in 2005. Even something as simple as a monochrome requires decisions about dimensions and color. The shape is also a decision, but by convention it’s a rectangle and so its being a decision gets overlooked. These are all compositional decisions, the kind of decisions I want to avoid. The Edge and Corner Paintings use details in the architecture to determine their size and shape, and their placement as well, and so act against the assumption that you can hang a painting wherever you want. For me gray is the default color, if we can even call it a color. As Gerhard Richter said, gray is ‘something that represents nothing’.


French Toast Paintings

I made the French Toast Paintings the way you make French toast. I put one side flat in a pan of paint, then the other side. The paintings have two sides, and the two sides are equal. There is one side and another side, not a front and a back, a recto and a verso, an obverse and a reverse. You can see only one side at a time, and you haven’t seen the painting until you have seen both sides. The French Toast Paintings were made flat and are shown flat. Unlike a painting on a wall, there is no up or down. You decide where to stand to look at them.


The Wilkinson Household Fire Alarm

The text on the rotating alarm reminded me of Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema. The Wilkinson Household Fire Alarm is seemingly inadequate to the task it was designed to perform. It occurred to me only afterwards that it could be an example of what Duchamp called a sick readymade.



First floor


Film Cans and Film Boxes

Film cans and film boxes had affinities with Pop and Minimal Art, two of my interests in art at the time. The drawings I worked from were in isometric, a kind of technical drawing that is impersonal. The stencils were precise, but the technique of spraying allowed for effects that could not be entirely controlled.


Score for Picture and Sound Rushes

This score was the basis of my film Picture and Sound Rushes. I call it a score because the camera operator and sound recordist followed it while they performed their parts in the production of the film, as musicians follow a score. The score makes clearer than the film itself the very simple logic of the film’s organization. ‘Sync’ means picture and sound recorded together, ‘MOS’ means picture without sound, and ‘wild’ means sound without picture. ‘Null’ was a word I pressed into service to indicate those segments where there is neither sound nor picture.


SMPTE Head Leader Shuttle

This is a diagram for a film I never made. The leader used in the American film industry was designed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, a body that sets technical standards. As in all leaders, numbers count down to the beginning of the film. At the frame with the number 2 there is an electronic tone on the soundtrack called the sync pop. The vertical alignment of the same frame numbers produces an array that conveys in graphic form not only all of the information to make the film but also its effects.


Untitled [colored tape piece]

This piece came from my wanting to work with areas of color that were flat and uninflected and could be produced with a minimum of gesture. Colored tape with a matte surface was a ready-made way to do this. The color and the surface quality were already there, so it was just a matter of pulling lengths of tape off the roll.


Production Stills

Production stills are photographs that document the production of a film. Production Stills documents its own production and so reveals what almost all films make a point of concealing: the camera and other equipment, the technicians, production assistants, and the director. A documentary film usually documents a subject that existed before the film is made. What Production Stills documents came into existence with the film’s production, and ended when the production ended. Directors usually want to control every detail of a film, but I gave up control by asking someone else to take the stills.





Stairwell Piece

When discussing the possibility of new work for Raven Row, Alex Sainsbury mentioned the stairwells. Stairwell Piece is a work in two parts. One part is in each of the two stairwells. It doesn’t matter which one you come to first. The shapes of both are copies of details in the paneling that correspond to each other. The shapes are similar but not identical. Each is hung in the other stairwell. This lets you compare the shape of an actual detail with the copy of the corresponding detail from the other stairwell, so you can see differences that otherwise you might not notice.



Second floor


Drawing for Southern Exposure

Southern Exposure was a film installation that tried to make a window in the wall of the gallery where it was shown. The scene beyond the wall was filmed with the camera positioned just outside the wall, and the film was projected as a loop against that wall in the gallery. The image could be only a crude suggestion of a window, because the time it showed was always the same few moments from the past, and its field of view remained fixed even if you moved around in the gallery. But a window was the ideal, and this drawing tries to represent that ideal.


Red Boxing Gloves / Orange Kitchen Gloves

The film version of Red Boxing Gloves / Orange Kitchen Gloves was shot the same day I made the photographs in the Polaroid studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was shot on Polavision, an instant movie process developed by Polaroid in the late seventies that video made obsolete. The actions are simple and repetitive, and so in principle could go on forever, hence their being shown as loops. Here the films are being shown for the first time.


Color Balance

Color Balance uses the same principle of color reproduction that video projectors use. Three beams of light – red, blue, and green – converge on the screen to reproduce the image. But in Color Balance the frames are out of register with each other. By conventional standards this is an error, but Color Balance relies on the interaction among the images that it produces. Color Balance has no beginning or end, it just goes on and on.


Back and Forth Paintings

The Back and Forth Paintings are part of my search for ways to move beyond rectangular painting as a single object, which I regard, in principle at least, as no longer adequate. The paintings are made in pairs, and each pair is one work. I worked mirror-wise back and forth from one painting to the other. I first made the Back and Forth Paintings as monochromes. The colors in these pairs are the three colors from Color Balance and their negatives.


Photogenic Drawings

The Photogenic Drawings are tracings of advertisements from the 1950s, when photography could not foresee the digital future that would make it obsolete. The name for the group goes back to the beginning of photography in the 1830s. William Fox Talbot was an amateur of the camera lucida, a device that required the user to trace an image, but his lack of skill prompted him to invent a process that would do the drawing for him. He called the photographs that his process produced ‘photogenic drawings’, or drawings made by light.


Untitled [orange box with blue flow]

The areas of uniform color in a silkscreen repress the gestural. I wanted to show the blue flowing as if in response to gravity. I don’t know what the flow is made of, but it’s somewhat viscous. The complementary colors are an early expression of my interest in the more general principle of complementary relations.


Protective Coloration

I was fascinated by small brightly colored objects made of rubber or plastic. I had a modest collection of these when I realized that a lot of them were things that people put on their bodies. That led me to seek out more like them. To me they had a flesh-like quality, but in a disturbing way, as if the flesh were artificial. I shot it on video because the then-crude quality of the video image generalized the objects’ colors and shapes. This is one of two videos I’ve made.