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"'Say your goodbyes and never leave.' Anne Sexton wrote 'there is death in every goodbye.' I find that true for paintings as well. We painters transfer fractions of our life into our paintings. One day, paintings will be all that remain of us. By painting we are in a sense saying goodbye, but through the existence of the painting we never leave.” – Sean Landers



Petzel is pleased to announce 2020 Vision, a new essay by Sean Landers. The essay is an intimate, humorous and brutally honest first-person account of the artist’s journey leading up to 2020 and life in lockdown—his misfortunes, reflections, and escapist sessions in the studio. These diary-format vignettes tell the story of the resultant paintings that have helped Sean come out on the other side. Landers brings us through adventures with his alter-ego Plankboy, a raw outcast character looking for the way, guides (or misguides or reroutes) us with his signpost and text paintings, and finally brings us to the sea, a blissful yet darkly clouded force for the artist.

Landers continually obscures the distinction between himself and the voice in his work, approaching deeper issues of identity and philosophy through parody and comedy. Here, for the first time, Sean turns those stream-of-conscious thoughts so essential to his practice to directly address the viewer. In a year that was most disarming and lonely, Landers has candidly detailed his part of our shared experience that was 2020.

The essay, 2020 Vision, is able to be read in its entirety at the bottom of the web page. 

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Sean Landers, Plankboy (Pygmalion), 2019, Oil on linen, 43 x 59 in,109.2 x 149.9 cm

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Sean Landers, Plank Boy, 2000, Oil on linen, 55 x 47 in, 139.7 x 119.4 cm        

"Made of wood planks, hinges and nuts, bolts and screws, 'Plankboy' is defined by the fact that he does not quite fit into the world in which he exists. Making his first appearance twenty years ago in a body of work signifying Landers’ renewed interest in Rene Magritte’s 1947–48 “La Période Vache,” Plankboy has been making periodic appearances in the work and has become a visual touchstone for the artist, as if to say, “this is where I am now.” While Plankboy bridges the past with the present, he is also bridging artistic truth with mythology. Here the figure becomes a symbol for the struggle of artistic endeavor and the odds that must be overcome in order to continue to create. In a sense, Plankboy is describing the nature of his own existence."

“Sean Landers at Rodolphe Janssen,” Contemporary Art Daily, December 26, 2019

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Sean Landers, Both Things at Once, 2018, Oil on linen, 59 1/2 x 77 1/4 in, 151.1 x 196.2 cm

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Sean Landers, Ahoy, 2020, Oil on linen, 30 x 36 in, 76.2 x 91.4 cm

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Sean Landers Studio, New York City, 2020

"I liked the idea of a journey around the world signifying a journey through life. I liked the amount of solitude and how their stream-of-consciousness was their only companion. In the writing of their journals, many sailors describe how their stream-of-consciousness is like another person on the boat and they’d talk to it. I loved that idea. That’s always been sort of there in my work a little bit, there’s always this other voice that I am kind of in conversation with. So I thought the perfect imagery for me to paint is ocean beneath these text fields."

“Sean Landers,” Frog Magazine, Numéro 19 – Winter 2020

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Winslow Homer, Northeaster, 1895; reworked by 1901, Oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 50 in, 87.6 x 127 cm, Collection of the MET Museum, Gift of George A. Hearn

"I wanted to create half fictional half real worlds in which my characters could inhabit. The first such world I chose was the ocean. I liked it as a location firstly because it’s global, connecting all people around the world. Secondly, a circumnavigation around it seems akin to a journey of a human life through time. Thirdly, whenever you are in the ocean you are in a completely other world, we can’t live there, and its creatures can’t live here. To do this required that I learned to paint the ocean. To do that I did two things–rented a house at the beach in Amagansett, NY, and I studied Homer seascape paintings in books and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In particular, I looked at Northeaster. Quoting Homer directly in this new series of paintings was meant to connect me painting/being in the present with me having painted/been in my own artistic past."

Excerpt from 2020 Vision

Sean Landers - 2020 Vision - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Sean Landers, If I Never, 2020, Oil on linen, 54 x 72 in, 137.2 x 182.9 cm