New York’s Mnuchin Gallery kicks off its 2018 season with Sean Scully: Wall of Light, an exhibition (February 28-April 14) covering one of the Irish-born, American-based artist’s most important series, featuring more than 20 paintings, watercolours and pastels produced by Scully since 1984.
The show traces Scully’s early inspirations, including an early 1980s trip to Mexico that Scully credits as a crucial moment in the series’ origin. Captivated by the dramatic Mayan ruins, as well as the subtle plays of sunlight, he captured these forms in watercolours and pastels – images that would later inform his large-scale abstractions.
Throughout the Wall of Light series, New York-based Scully employs impasto paint brushwork to create segments of dense colour that mimic Mayan stones. The results are luminous works including Wall of Light Orange Red (2000) and Wall of Light Red Yellow (2012), both evoking the hues of the sacred ancient pyramids and the Yucatán Peninsula.
But Mexico is not the only inspiration. Small Barcelona Sand Wall (2004) is an oil-on-linen painting that incorporates the sea blues and warm crimson tones of a Mediterranean summer
Complementing the works for sale (prices from $150,000 to $1.6m for larger paintings) are many on-loan pieces, such as Wall of Light Desert Night (1999) from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Inspired by a Nevada desert drive, this is one of the most striking artworks in the exhibition and features alternating bands of thick azure paint evoking a midnight sky, with cool grey swathes that mimic moonlight on a vast expanse of sand.
Scully once said the aim of abstract painting is “to be so humanistic, so expressive… I want my brushstrokes to be full of feeling, material feeling manifested in form and colour”. This Wall of Light exhibition promises to come alive with movement, light and emotion.