Sean Scully is arguably the most important living master of abstract art, and his second retrospective in China – ‘Sean Scully: Resistance and Persistence. Paintings 1967-2015. London and New York’ – will open at the Hubei Museum of Art on Jan 10, 2017. It is also the last stop of the touring exhibition, initially presented at the Art Museum Of Nanjing University of the Arts (AMNUA) and subsequently at the Guangdong Museum of Art. ‘Resistance and Persistence’ presents major paintings previously exhibited at Sean Scully’s solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, works presented at the recent Venice Biennale and paintings borrowed from important western museums. ‘Sean Scully: Resistance and Persistence’ is acclaimed as ‘an exhibition full of humanity’ bringing ‘another Sean Scully hurricane’ to China.
‘Resistance and Persistence’ complements Sean Scully’s ground-breaking exhibition ‘Follow the Heart: the Art of Sean Scully’ touring at the Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum and the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (CAFAM) in 2015, about which the curator Wang Chunchen said ‘ it is as important an exhibition as Rauschenberg’s ’85 show in China’. The exhibition was selected by the Beijing News, Artron and Scope magazine as one of the ‘top 10 exhibitions of the year’, and it won Sean Scully the ‘International Artist of the Year Award’ presented by Harper’s Bazaar Art.
Sean Scully has been praised by the great philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto as ‘an artist whose name belongs to the shortest of short list of major painters of our time’. His works have been collected by over 150 prominent museums and institutes around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery, Centre Georges Pompidou, Museum of Modern Art, the Museum Ludwig (Germany), Victoria and Albert Museum, St. Sophia Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum (New York), Beijing CAFAM, Guangdong Museum of Art etc. Sean Scully has been twice the Turner Prize nominee at Tate London in 1989 and 1993.
‘Resistance and Persistence’ is the title not only of this exhibition but also of Sean Scully’s collection of essays published in 2006. It expresses very well the artist’s way of working and his art-spirit. As the curator Philip Dodd commented, ‘Across 50 years, the ‘diptych’ (a description by Sean Scully himself of himself) has wrestled with inherited languages to make an art that is resistant to orthodoxy (including his own) and persistent – open to including more and more.’
‘Resistance and Persistence’ is a comprehensive review of the artist’s career and an intimate personal autobiography, which also provides a rare opportunity for the audience to understand the history of western painting after the war. The exhibition will take the viewer from 1967 to 2015 to allow us to feel how the artist has contributed to the history of art. In his early works, Scully developed the artistic tradition of Matisse, Mondrian and Rothko, which combined the European tradition of oil painting and the distinctive character of American abstract art.
This exhibition will include works from his student period which were collected immediately by public museums in the West through the beautiful minimalist paintings of his early years in New York, through his 80s paintings which redefined abstract art to the late Landline paintings which were shown at the most recent Venice Biennale and about which the London’s Financial Times said ‘Sean Scully has never looked better than amongst the stones of Venice’.
Very notable works include his ten part painting/pastel sequence ‘Kind of Red’ (2013, which is itself a homage to Miles Davies’ seminal album Kind of Blue), the recent ‘Four Day’ (2015), an extraordinary four panel work which is 279.4 x 542.3cm, as well as the painting and pastel ‘Pale Fire’ (1998) borrowed from the Modern Museum, Fort Worth Texas. Also, Sean Scully has selected photographs, books, catalogues and other objects which have mattered to him in his long life and these will also be exhibited in the exhibition.
About Sean Scully’s art, Fu Zhongwang, the artistic director of Hubei Museum of Art commented: ‘From the very beginning, Sean has been attentive to and has been thinking about things that attach him to life: literature, music, visual arts, religions, karate and, of course, Zen – all of which contribute to the powerful inclusiveness of his work… the more feelings and thoughts that are accumulated within him, the more straightforward and simple his expression has become. The structure of colour and the order of brushstrokes are his way of giving form to the nature of things.’
The exhibition is curated by Philip Dodd who has recently been named by Art & Auction magazine as one of the ‘top 100 innovators in the art world’. He is a former director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and has curated exhibitions with artists and architects including Damien Hirst, Rem Koolhaus, Zaha Hadid, Yoko Ono and Steve McQueen. He is the author or editor of several books on art, literature and film including ‘Relative Values. What’s art worth?’. The Guardian newspaper commented he is ‘one of the two finest cultural critics of his generation’.
To accompany the exhibitions, Sean Scully’s essay collection ‘INNER’ has been published in both English and Chinese. Since the late 1960s, Scully’s visual expressiveness has been matched by a verbal dynamism that is no less arresting than his art. Varying widely in form from brief reflections to essay-length meditations on artists such as Van Gogh, Morandi and Rothko, Scully’s writings are distinguished by a brutal lyricism and an effortlessly aphoristic turn of phrase. The nearly 200 texts that comprise this collection provide a unique perspective on one of the most engaging artistic imaginations of the past half-century. Here, readers will discover the effusions of a mind tirelessly wrestling with the profoundest issues of art, cultural history and what it means to be a creator in the contemporary world.
About the exhibition
Dates: Jan 10, 2017 – Mar 12, 2017
Opening: Jan 10, 2017, Tuesday
Venue: Hubei Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and Hubei Museum of Art, for further information please visit www.hbmoa.com.