SEAN SCULLY: Landline — Hirshhorn Museum

13 September 2018 - 3 February 2019

A major highlight of the 56th Venice Biennale, Sean Scully’s acclaimed Landline series made its US debut at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Featuring never-before-seen artworks from the renowned series, Sean Scully: Landline presented a dramatic shift in the work of one of today’s most influential artists. With thick, gestural brushstrokes and loose bands of color, the Landline paintings show Scully’s transition away from his earlier hard-edged minimalism to his current, more expressive style, a style that elicits the beauty and brilliance of the natural world. 


Spanning a variety of media—including watercolor, oil painting, and sculpture—the works in the exhibition showcased the artist’s remarkable ability to deepen, mystify, and vary his relatively limited repertoire of motifs, largely composed of vertical and horizontal stripes. With gestures toward the land, sea, and sky (and the indistinct lines between them), the works navigate the elemental relationships that compose our world, and in doing so reveal the sublime character of these interactions. Together, the works transformed the Hirshhorn’s Second Level inner-circle galleries into an unceasing current of color and energy.


This exhibition debuted more than 20 years after the Hirshhorn opened Scully’s first midcareer retrospective in 1995, a pivotal exhibition that cemented his status at the center of contemporary painting. Building on the narrative of this 1995 survey, Sean Scully: Landline afforded viewers the opportunity to witness the next step in Scully’s artistic evolution, one that continues to impact the greater landscape of contemporary abstract art. Following its Hirshhorn debut, the series traveled to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, in spring 2019.


Curated by Stephane Aquin, Chief Curator, with curatorial assistance from Sandy Guttman