An extensive retrospective of contemporary painting artist Sean Scully at MAMbo.

MAMbo in Bologna presents from June 22 to October 9, 2022 an extensive retrospective exhibition dedicated to Sean Scully, among the leading exponents of contemporary painting.

From June 22 to Oct. 9, 2022, MAMbo - Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, in the Sala delle Ciminiere, presents A Wound in a Dance with Love, an extensive retrospective of Sean Scully (Dublin, 1945), among the leading exponents of contemporary painting.

Curated by Lorenzo Balbi with main partner the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin, the exhibition is based on the exhibition Sean Scully: Passenger - A Retrospective, curated by Dávid Fehér and organized by the Museum of Fine Arts - Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest (Oct. 14, 2020 - May 30, 2021), which was subsequently hosted at the Benaki Museum in Athens. Now it comes to Bologna in a revamped version designed for MAMbo. The artist is thus once again the protagonist of a solo show in Bologna after 26 years: in 1996 it was the Galleria d’Arte Moderna itself that dedicated an exhibition to him in the Villa delle Rose venue.

In Scully’s art converge as much an extensive knowledge of the works of ancient and contemporary masters as a singular sensitivity in drawing visual and emotional suggestions from data of reality. The exhibition in Bologna will display 68 works, including oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors, drawings and a monumental sculpture, to highlight the constant dialectic between these two fundamental components of the artist’s work, tracing a creative journey spanning more than 50 years.

From the first figurative experiments of the 1960s and the minimalist works of the 1970s to the current work, A Wound in a Dance with Love will document the most important developments of a practice that is always consistent with its own assumptions and also capable of varying significantly over time, in relation to emotional experiences and existential evolutions such as to affections and bereavements.

In the opening room will be placed two monumental paintings on aluminum, What Makes Us Too (2017) and Uninsideout (2018 - 2020), in which several recurring elements in the artist’s works come together in contrast: tripartition, the inclusion of “insets,” the use of stripes contrasted with orthogonal patterns and monochrome elements, and the alternation between colored and black-and-white areas.

In the center aisle of the Hall, the exhibition will kick off with Fort # 1 from 1978, a rigorous synthesis of landscape suggestions and the earlier Backcloth from 1970, the year in which Scully had already fully matured his determination to embrace abstractionism. With Backcloth the artist probes to its extreme limit the possibility of using the grid as the only compositional module, with a dense series of superimpositions, attempting an approximation to Jackson Pollock’s dripping through a paroxysmal use of typical Piet Mondrian patterns. In Crossover Painting # 1 of 1974, placed in the same room, the compositional texture becomes more relaxed, while the color texture appears more refined.

Next on display is the sculpture Opulent Ascension (2019), a monumental example of the artist’s most recent three-dimensional scale transpositions of his insights. He himself states, "I made Opulent Ascension out of felt. Felt: a material that is pressed into existence, not woven from a line. Meret Oppenheim took a cup and saucer and lined them with animal fur, thus making them unusable. Had they therefore become Art? A cup and saucer lined with fur must be a work of Art, because they are strange, and because I have been thinking about them, for decades. Can the skin of anything, of any being, of any object, be so preponderant as to define what it is? So much so that everything on the inside becomes subordinate to what is on the outside. I love this question. Because I can never answer it" (Sean Scully, New York, March 9, 2020).

On either side of Opulent Ascension will be several clearly landscape-inspired works from the Landline series, most notably those dedicated to the second son Oisín: Oisín Green (2016) and Oisín Sea Green (2016), as well as the triptych Arles Nacht Vincent (2015), an homage to Vincent van Gogh, and, in the background, Black Square (2020), inspired by Kazimir Malevic.

In the side wing will be placed The Bather (1983), inspired by a painting by Henri Matisse, evoked only intuitively by a vibrant palette and rendering of light. With this painting the artist initiates the reconciliation of the research of Matisse himself, Piet Mondrian and Mark Rothko, among the stated sources of inspiration for his painting.

Mariana (1991) features the typical “insets” consisting of canvases painted with contrasting patterns and physically embedded in housings carved into the body of the painting, while Long Light (1998), already part of the MAMbo permanent collection, is a rehearsal of the reflections on light that prelude the later works in the Wall of Light cycle, inspired by careful observation of light mutations on wall surfaces seen and photographed first in Mexico and then in various parts of the world: two particularly intense ones, such as Wall of Light White Tundra (2009), on loan from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Turin, and Wall Light Zacatecas (2010), bear witness to this. This section of the exhibition includes other more recent works, each with its own distinctive imprint. Also appearing here is another work inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s painting, Vincent (2002), while Empty Heart (1987) evokes one of the most dramatic periods in the artist’s life, affected by the death of his first 19-year-old son Paul.

A final space will finally be devoted to the most recent and significant turn in Scully’s oeuvre: the return to figurative painting that the artist had briefly tackled in his early days.

The paintings in the Madonna series, completed between 2018 and 2019, depict the artist’s wife and son intent on playing with sand, bringing to light a theme that has always been dear to Scully as that of the mother with child. A motif actually always underlying the same “insets” so recurrent in his work and appearing again, aligning with a permanent self-reflexive practice, in the painting that closes the exhibition: Figure Abstract and Vice Versa (2019), a diptych in which the figure of Oisín, intent on playing on the right, finds a counterbalance in the panel divided into horizontal bands on the left, while a symmetrical interplay of a piece of each canvas in the other offers the key to the interpretation of a painting that sticks to reality, focusing on the exploration of its own constituent means.

Completing the exhibition is a selection of works on paper accompanying each developmental stage of Scully’s entire career and a program of films: Sean Scully: Set in Stone, 2008, directed by Michael Doyle; Sean Scully: Why This, Not That? 2009, directed by Michael Doyle; Sean Scully: Art Comes From Need, 2010, directed by Hans Andreas Guttner; Sean Scully: There are no certainties in my paintings, 2011, directed by Laurence Topham and Michael Tait; The drawing out of the Eleuthera paintings, parts I and II, 2017 and 2018, directed by Sean Scully; A tour of Sean Scully’s studio by Oisín Scully, 2020, directed by Oisín Scully.

On the occasion of his retrospective in Bologna, Sean Scully will donate to MAMbo a work that will then become part of the museum’s collections: Aix Wall 4 (2021).

The artist has also chosen to pay homage to Giorgio Morandi with the exhibition of two works in the spaces of the Museo Morandi: Cactus (1964), which belongs to his early figurative phase, a work that, while accurately depicting some of the plants referred to in the title, already shows characteristic traits of the later abstract research and whose subject has a singular symbolic value for Scully, for whom the cactus is a plant that is "indestructible and worthy of admiration. The second is the diptych Two Windows Grey Diptych (2000), inserted in perfect accord among the Bolognese master’s more rarefied late works.

A Wound in a Dance with Love is part of the exhibitions in the program of Bologna Estate 2022, the bill of activities promoted by the Municipality of Bologna and the Metropolitan City of Bologna-Tourist Territory Bologna-Modena.

During the opening on Tuesday, June 21, at 6:30 p.m., the museum foyer will host a concert by master guitarist Lorenzo Biguzzi, promoted in collaboration with the Imola International Academy Foundation “Incontri con il Maestro” and conceived for the occasion. A public talk with Sean Scully will be held instead on Wednesday, June 22, at 6 p.m. in the museum’s conference room.

Image: Sean Scully, A Wound in a Dance with Love, installation view (MAMbo - Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, 2022). Photo by Ornella De Carlo

An extensive retrospective of contemporary painting artist Sean Scully at MAMbo.
An extensive retrospective of contemporary painting artist Sean Scully at MAMbo.

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