Guston/Morandi/Scully Exhibition

Mnuchin Gallery

poster for Guston/Morandi/Scully Exhibition
[Image: Giorgio Morandi "Natura Morta" (1946) oil on canvas 9 4/5 × 18 1/4 in.]

This event has ended.

Curated by Sukanya Rajaratnam

Mnuchin Gallery presents Guston/Morandi/Scully, an exhibition that will trace the visual affinities between Philip Guston (1913-1980), Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), and Sean Scully (b.1945). This presentation will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored by artist and critic, Phong Bui.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said, “if the young man had believed in repetition, what great things might have come from him, what inwardness he might have achieved in this life!”[1] Indeed, it is through repetition that the present artists have been able to communicate their inner vision of the outside world: From the 1920s through the 1960s, Giorgio Morandi devoutly painted still lives using a network of delicate and decisive strokes that sought to record the subtle, ephemeral tonalities of light and shade cast across his vessels. Between the late 1950s and the mid-1960s, Philip Guston contributed to the New York School with abstract paintings that turned the grid-as-image into the grid-in-flux through loose brushwork and atmospheric colors that acted as a poignant metaphor for the instability of sight. Finally, through several series he’s created over the last four decades, Sean Scully has continued to develop a lexicon of multi-layered blocks and bands of color that memorialize the essence of a particular place, person, or memory.

Guston, Morandi, and Scully work in series and revisit the same motifs time and again, not to resolve the mystery of painting, but rather to relish in its paradoxical nature. By engaging with geometry, grids, and stripes they demonstrate how art attempts to bring order and structure to the temporal and ever-changing experience of seeing. Here, they seek to heighten the tension between the real and the perceived, the objective and the subjective, the material and the metaphysical. United in Guston/Morandi/Scully, the artists’ personal mythologies and the sublime beauty of their compositions collectively attest to an art that lies beyond simple definition or explanation.

While all three artists have distinct methods, remarkable parallels can be observed in their organization of pictorial space and expert understanding of the relationship between color and form. In his nature morte, Morandi customarily situated his bottles and vases at center, in a muted palette that both distinguished and fused them with the rectilinear spaces of the background and tabletop. The Bolognese painter’s brown, gray, and pastel objects often teeter between objective reality and a softly geometric realm of abstraction as they engage, what Scully calls, the “resistance and persistence” of sight.[2] The tenuous line between representation and abstraction was a chief concern for Guston as well. Over the course of the decade in which he painted abstractly, Guston blended the Impressionist’s penchant for transitory light with the Abstract Expressionist’s command of gesture, producing a dynamism akin to the late Monet. The paintings he created during this formative and experimental period incessantly shift before the eye, playing on the viewer’s conception of time and memory. In his Wall of Light series––which conceptually began with a trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico in 1984––Scully was similarly moved to reconcile the secular, architectural qualities of American Minimalism with a sacred, deeply personal mode of vision. This pivotal series would inspire others, like Landlines (1999–) and Robes (2001–), in which Scully achieves a romantic disquietude through color relationships and pictorial breaks that agitate one’s perception of surface and depth. Like Morandi and Guston, Scully’s paintings and sculptures thrive on the opposing forces of truth and appearance, or permanence and transience.
Spanning both floors of Mnuchin Gallery, the present exhibition will feature paintings by Guston and Morandi alongside Sean Scully’s recent paintings and sculptures. Beyond their aesthetic compatibility, the works in Guston/Morandi/Scully speak to a shared pathos and poetics of vision that insists art’s power lies in its enduring mystery.

1 Søren Kierkegaard et al., Fear and Trembling: Repetition (Princeton University Press, 1983), 146.
2 See “Giorgio Morandi: Resistance and Persistence,” in Sean Scully, Inner: The Collected Writing and Selected Interviews of Sean Scully, ed. Kelly Grover (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2016), 171-176.



from September 08, 2022 to October 15, 2022

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