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December 27, 2021

Acquisition: Sarah Cain

Sarah Cain, "Self-Portrait"

Sarah Cain
Self-Portrait, 2020
acrylic, gouache, latex, prism beads, plastic thread on canvas
overall: 228.6 x 228.6 x 7.62 cm (90 x 90 x 3 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Purchased as the Gift of Sharon Percy Rockefeller and Senator John Davison Rockefeller IV

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Sarah Cain’s Self-Portrait (2020), an exuberant, mixed-media abstract painting. The non-representational self-portrait is the first work by this original artist to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

Self-Portrait features a dynamic whorl of hard-edged colored bands creating curvilinear forms that alternate between foreground—for example, the large black band with drips that descend throughout the lower register—and background, as illustrated by the black translucent ground of smaller organic shapes. Cain incorporates an abstract vocabulary of form, color, and materials in this painting to create speculation about this painting’s meaning as a self-portrait. She sewed prismatic beads, given to her by her mother, into the center of the canvas as a kind of supportive, light-filled spine—an example of the personal symbolism in this work. Cain’s Self-Portrait painting brings the tradition of abstract painting into the present and continues a rich dialog with countless works in the National Gallery’s collection, including abstract works by artists Lynda Benglis, Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Mitchell, Amy Sillman, Joan Snyder, Frank Stella, and Richard Tuttle.   

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