Art: Earning His Stripes

Sean Scully makes something special of a simple motif

A painting being so much more than its subject, you can't pin down an artist by naming his favorite motif. From Mondrian and the Russian constructivists on, many an abstract artist has gone for the stripe in all its apparent simplicity -- the line that baldly, mysteriously becomes a form in itself. Yet their paintings are not like one another's: there is no confusing the precise black vibration of a Bridget Riley with the effect of one of Barnett Newman's "zips" or the slightly blurred, funereal pinstriping of an early Frank Stella. Today the stripe continues to linger in the wings...

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