After more than a year working in isolation, Sean Scully decided to go in the opposite direction. He swung open the doors of his studio to invite art lovers in. The Irish-American artist’s latest exhibition, “12 Black Windows,” takes place in two parts—at Lisson Gallery’s space on 24th Street and Scully’s own Chelsea workspace. (Visits can be scheduled here).
Inside the studio, one encounters The 12 (2020), a 12-panel grouping of new paintings in his ongoing “Landline” series. They range from joyous to somber in their tones and seem to echo the range of emotions felt over the past year, from tragedy to jubilation and relief.
Though these works still engage the alternating bands of color that have defined “Landline” series since Scully began it over 20 years ago, they are rooted in the experiences of the global pandemic, quarantine, Black Lives Matter protests, and mass uncertainty that Scully experienced firsthand in New York. In the studio, the works occupy their own room and act almost like sentries at a fortified structure or pillars in a temple, conferring a sense of gravity in opposition to the unpredictability of the outside world.
“The world in which we live, the existential threat from COVID, and the environmental problems we face have influenced me greatly in my art,” the artist said in a statement.
In the gallery, the exhibition continues with Dark Windows (2020), a suite of five works created at the height of the pandemic. Here, Scully introduces a new element, the seemingly sinister black square—an allusion to Malevich’s 1915 Black Box. The shape—which evokes censors, stunned silence, and even “Blackout Tuesday” Instagram posts—represents a departure for Scully, whose work normally calls to mind open landscapes and horizon lines.
“There is no doubt that they are a response to the pandemic and to what mankind has been doing to nature,” Scully said. “What really strikes me as tragic is that what is a relief for nature is a torment for us. And what is a pleasure for us is a torment for nature. That seems to be the conundrum that we’ve got ourselves into.”
See the installation of “12 Black Windows” and get an inside look at the show below.
“Sean Scully: 12 Black Windows” is on view at Lisson Gallery through June 18, 2021.
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