Floored: Step Into and Onto Sarah Cain’s Latest Paintings at Galerie Lelong

  • Image courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

    Image courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

It’s not often you can walk on the art. For its latest show, Galerie Lelong in New York invited the Los Angeles–based artist Sarah Cain to cover the gallery floor—all 2,500 square feet of it—with a monumental painting.

Indeed, Cain’s “Dark Matter” is more of an artist’s intervention than a conventional exhibition. In addition to the main attraction, a dozen bold paintings hang on the walls above and around the sprawling floor painting. Those canvases likewise defy convention, incorporating found materials such as sunglasses, pinwheels, prisms, and chain links.

  • Image courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

    Image courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

Pushing boundaries and bending genres is classic Cain. “I believe in the painting showing me more than me telling the painting what to be,” she told Phaidon. “I believe in speaking my mind and making work that is actively engaged with furthering and challenging what painting can be. Painting is a space where anything can happen but you need to be open to receiving it.”

In Cain’s playful, imaginative practice, that open space involves improvisation and the collection of found materials, as well as inspiration from various sources: music, books, the natural world, her personal life, etc. Her recent body of work is highly textural and rich with humor and emotion. It is marked by geometric shapes, splashes of color, and shifting perspectives that can prove disorienting—as if standing on a massive, gallery-sized painting weren’t disorienting enough.

For Cain, “Dark Matter” represents both a creative experiment and a concession to the realities of public exhibition. Though she has done floor paintings before, this is the first time she encourages viewers to actually step onto them.

“I like the idea that you’re just walking over the painting,” Cain said in an interview last year. “And the thing with my works on site is you can’t walk on them, and it’s like, people always walk on them, and it drives me fucking crazy, and they never guard them correctly, so I want to just give in to it.”

Fortunately, that giving in presents a prime opportunity to venture into Cain’s colorfully chaotic world, this time without the guards stopping you.


—Bridget Gleeson


Sarah Cain: Dark Matter” is on view at Galerie Lelong, New York, Sept. 8–Oct. 15, 2016.

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