Sean Scully, Eleuthera
7 June – 8 September 2019
In the oeuvre of Sean Scully, the new figurative series Eleuthera represents a significant break. Scully is known above all for highly expressive abstract paintings comprised of colorful stripes and blocks. But the new series of works that the Albertina Museum is now presenting reveals an entirely new side of this artist: Eleuthera, created in 2016/17, revolves around a very private subject: these 23 large-format oil paintings, which are joined by pastels, drawings, and photos, show Scully’s son Oisín playing at the beach on Eleuthera, an island in the Bahamas.
It may strike one as surprising to see Scully, who spent five decades with abstraction, working in a figurative vein. But in actual fact, it represents a representational homecoming of sorts— for in the very early days of his career, this artist’s work was indeed obsessively figurative. The 1960s then saw him embark upon an exhaustive exploration of color’s diverse possibilities, and under the influence of the Fauves and the German Expressionists in particular, he gradually abandoned realism and continued his work in equally obsessive devotion to the abstract. Even so, his brand of abstraction has always been based in a certain way upon his memories of figuration, explains the artist.
The Albertina Museum and Sean Scully have maintained close ties for many years. It was back in 1999 that the widely noted exhibition Sean Scully – Prints was held here. And alongside Scully’s entire printed graphic oeuvre, numerous drawings, watercolors, pastels, oil paintings, and photographs by this artist have since then likewise joined the collections of the Albertina Museum.