Painter Sarah Cain exhibits her world of blue and red at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla galleries


Painting is in Sarah Cain’s blood. It’s fitting, then, that the title of her exhibition that opens May 9 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is “SARAH CAIN blue in your body, red when it hits the air.”

“Color is so emotional for me and a way of pulling me through things,” said the Los Angeles-based abstract painter. “It’s the one thing that hasn’t changed since I started making art as a kid. Sometimes I’ll force myself to make a show that’s black and white or all neutral just to show I can do it. But color is so seductive.”

The words of the title are Cain’s own and the same as that of a particular painting in the exhibition. “It has multiple meanings to me, but it’s generally about blood,” she said. “It can be something inside your body and something outside your body. It’s about a relationship that has two sides, or two realities.”

“Blue in your body …” is Cain’s first solo museum project, and in addition to the title it’s an unusual one. Besides her own work, the exhibition will include peers’ art from Cain’s own personal collection and works borrowed from MCASD’s permanent collection.

The latter includes pieces by John Divola, Ana Mendieta, Fred Sandback and Alfred Jensen.

“A lot of the work of the other artists that I picked have to do with the body,” Cain said. “They all relate to the main things in my practice.”

Cain describes her creative ethos in terms of “breaking down definitions. My whole practice is about challenging painting and what painting can be, and to do that within the traditional canvas is the ultimate challenge. A lot of the paintings have things sewn on or extended off the canvas.”

Intuition plays a significant role in Cain’s art making. “It’s all an organic process and it’s usually feeling-based. Sometimes it is material-based. I’ll do an experimentation and it ends up being the painting.”

The vivid colors of Cain’s work and her artistic adventurism make her exhibition an ideal companion to MCASD’s “Dear Nemesis, Nicole Eisenman 1993-2013,” opening the same day. “I like Nicole Eisenman’s work,” said Cain. “I couldn’t be in better company peer-wise.”