Sean Scully, Landline Yellow Line, 2015. Oil on aluminum. 98 ½ × 78 ¾ in. × (249.9 × 199.9 cm). Private collection. © Sean Scully, Photographed by Robert Bean

SEP 13, 2018-FEB 03, 2019

“I think of land, sea, sky. And they always make a massive connection. I try to paint this, this sense of the elemental coming together of land and sea, sky and land…stacked in horizon lines endlessly beginning and ending….” – Sean Scully

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 Stéphane Aquin, Chief Curator, with curatorial assistance from Sandy Guttman



Sean Scully (b. Dublin, Ireland, 1945) is a painter, printmaker, sculptor, and poet. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Harkness Fellowship. Scully’s works are in a number of private and public collections, including the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. In 2015, Scully participated in the Venice Biennale with his solo exhibition Land Sea at the Palazzo Falier. He currently splits his time living and working in New York and the Bavarian countryside.




Sean Scully: Landline was organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and was made possible with major support from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation and Iris and Adam Singer. The Museum is also grateful for additional funding provided by the Hirshhorn International Council and the Hirshhorn Collectors’ Council.