Review of 'Sean Scully: LA Deep' – The Brooklyn Rail
2 November 2023
One positive outcome from the distraction of art fairs has been that more artists and their dealers are working together to make gallery solo exhibitions that juxtapose new work with early work. When done with sensitivity and a good eye, these presentations often become far greater than the sum of their parts, an achievement rarely achieved in stalls that bring to mind a county fair. And when an exhibition provides the bonus of rebuilding a historical connection to its actual location, as does this focused yet sweeping exhibition of ten works by Sean Scully (nine paintings and one sculpture installed outdoors), its use-value rises.
Sean Scully’s paintings have, on several occasions, been exhibited in Los Angeles before. What makes this Lisson exhibition unique is that, in the case of three included paintings (one from 1971, two from 1974), it provides a kind of homecoming, given that they were first shown in 1975 at a gallery with a fantastic name, La Tortue in Santa Monica (just after Scully’s arrival in the United States in Los Angeles; he would move to New York soon after the opening of the Santa Monica exhibition.) These paintings, now roughly fifty years old, are part of what Scully called the “Supergrid” series that he began while a student in the UK during the 1960s. The three canvases take full advantage of the formal visual language of their time, as well as the practical advantages of acrylic paint: fast drying and accommodating of the tape used to make a clean, straight edge.
The earliest painting, Blaze (1971), is a highly regulated riot of intersecting horizontal and diagonal bright stripes (they lean to the right, delivering to the painting an overall visual thrust) that exist on top of more painterly vertical and diagonal stripes. The painting’s clear juxtaposition of front-and-just-behind demonstrates how much action can be generated in the narrowest of depths, as the lines that are behind are not only broken into rhythmic segments, they are also painted in a manner best called atmospheric. This effect is further developed in the two paintings from 1974—Final Grey 1/2 and Second Order 1/2—in which, with the advantage of the direct hindsight this exhibition gives us, it is clear the seeds of Scully’s subsequent paintings were planted.
Read the full review by Terry R. Myers via The Brooklyn Rail.