Sean Scully: The Catherine Room
Posted by Christine R. on July 8, 2008 - 3:25pm
Categories: Within the Walls

Do you find modern art confusing? Meaningless? Would you go so far as to say its downright…nihilistic? While modern art seems to be something people either love or they hate, I think it goes without saying how we here at the Modern feel about it.

So, this is what I want you to do. During your visit to the Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love exhibition this summer I want you to set some time aside to walk through the second floor galleries where selected pieces from the permanent collection are currently on display. Upon reaching the top of the stairs leading to the second floor galleries, enter the gallery space on your immediate left. In this room you will find eight pieces from Sean Scully’s Catherine Series .

For those of you unfamiliar with Scully and his work, Scully is a minimalist painter who experiments with stripes and geometric forms in his work through various media such as oil, pastel, and watercolor. The Modern is proud to include 34 of his paintings and 16 of his works on paper as part of the permanent collection.

Upon my initial entry to the gallery space displaying selections from Scully’s Catherine Series, it is hard to describe why I was so intrigued by this series of works. Was it the sheer size of these pieces? Their architectural quality? Or perhaps it was the meditative quality they share with Mark Rothko’s Color Field Paintings. However, when I really think back, what makes the Catherine Series so powerful to me is the energy you feel surrounding you upon entering the gallery space. An energy that resonates out from the works and the unspoken understanding of what the artist must have been experiencing during the creation of each piece. For example, Catherine 1986 was painted shortly after the death of Scully’s son. Unlike his other pieces on display, Catherine 1986 takes on a darker aesthetic quality reflecting a dark period in the artist’s life. Not only does the Catherine Series provide us with a glimpse into the personal life of the artist, but it also provides the viewer with a look into the different stages of Scully’s artistic process as well as his development into a mature style.

During your time in the gallery space take time to ask yourself a few questions. What kind of energy do you feel in the presence of Scully’s work? What do you think Scully might have been going through when each of the pieces was made? Which piece is your favorite from the eight on display from Scully’s Catherine Series ? And most importantly use your time in the gallery to reflect on what each of the pieces mean to you.

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