Salt Lake City, 20 March 2020

My work is based on the proposition that a person might be able to select a piece of plastic, cardboard or whatever and, through the application of their own thought and effort, transform it into something that is interesting and perhaps even provocative to look at. The artworks in this series were created by arranging and reconfiguring discarded materials such as cardboard, paper, plastic, fabric, and metal, and then securing them in a fixed arrangement.

Though the completed compositions are sometimes hardly distinguishable from any other accumulation of debris, the designation of these particular accumulations as works of art invites the viewer to evaluate the aesthetic merits of the selections that have been made, including the arrangement that has been imposed and the qualities of the garbage itself (its colors, textures, edges, accretions, greasiness, stickiness, state of decay, etc.). The work invites a consideration of attraction versus revulsion, waste versus efficiency, restraint versus indulgence, uniqueness versus mass production, the transformative capacity of art, the meaning of garbage, and coming face to face with one's own participation in a society that produces it in abundance.

Salt Lake City, 12 June 2015

[Essay by Adam Bateman, Executive Director of CUAC Contemporary and Curator of Sean Morello: Constellations & Supersymmetries at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015]

Sean Morello's Constellations & Supersymmetries feature a series of collages that emerge from his practice as a painter who is consciously engaged with art history. Using discarded and found materials, Morello's works first suggest color, form, and mark-making before signifying notions of garbage as anthropological ephemera of a consumer society.

As abstractions, the pieces link to design and form, flatness and depth, figure and ground; as collages they engage with object and construction; as color they are paintings. Morello's abstraction of text-based, mass-produced material forces Pop art - commercial printmaking, fashion and textile design - into the language of Color Field and Abstract Expressionist painting.

In the Constellations grouping, Morello's collages are photographic snapshots of discarded materials. Notably, Morello's compositions are made of materials collected together from the same place and at the same time, resulting in visual documentations of a specific moment that are then abstracted and distanced from their original locale. The order imposed by viewer/artist is an imposition over a random collection, much like the connection of stars to create compositional harmony in a constellation.

The Supersymmetries grouping takes its name from a physical theory supplementary to the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which emerged from the discovery of subatomic particles in the 1960s. This theory attempts to apply an additional theoretical structural framework to help explain externalities to the Standard Model, such as the existence of dark matter. Morello adapts this title and theory to describe the way his symmetrical and art historical compositions impose a metaphysical order on the chaos that is capitalism, mass consumption, and waste.

New York, 26 September 2012

Sean Morello refers to his work as "hand-calculated non-representational painting." While embracing the handmade mark, pattern, and indulgent color, the artist places strict limitations on the deployment of these means. The intended length, width, placement, and color of each brushstroke are carefully pre-planned. As the painting develops, very limited allowance is possible for improvisation, experimentation, or revisions. Here the act of painting becomes the literal subject of the resulting image, and the making of an artwork becomes itself a metaphor for the viewer's consideration. More specifically, this work examines the act of imposing order, and the role played by this impulse in constructing meaning. In this way, the work insists that the act of painting can itself be a political exercise; though often a private act, it yields an object intended for public examination.

Morello's painting extends a dialog familiar in the work of Ad Reinhardt, Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, Bridget Riley, Gene Davis, and others. In his work as in its precursors, a palpable undercurrent of optimism threatens to reduce an otherwise cerebral stripe of painting to a merely sentimental exercise, but perhaps that is not far from the point. In Reinhardt's words "someday the monotonous and ugly spaces you live and work in will be organized... as intelligently and as beautifully as the spaces have been in some paintings. A painting of quality is a challenge to disorder and insensitivity everywhere." *

Morello's paintings are informed by his parallel body of diminutive mixed media works. His mode of painting, characterized by planning and ordering is playfully transmuted here into a process of selecting, responding, and reconfiguring. In relying upon found materials, these candy-colored constructions are inherently laden with themes of commerce, consumption, and waste that reflect a sense of urgency upon the work.

Sean Morello was born in Columbus, Ohio. He earned a BFA from Brigham Young University, and an MFA from Pratt Institute in New York City. He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn, New York.

* Ad Reinhardt, How to Look at Space, editorial cartoon published in PM, April 28, 1946.

The Clay Projects, New York, 17 October 2007

"Late one evening in January of this year, I found myself watching the city from the window of a speeding taxi. I saw the million passing colors of the urban landscape compress into a single vision, framed by the deep night sky and a darkly patinated Ford interior. It was an image of wholeness, composed of limitless retinal possibilities.

"Over the past several years, I have been working with pre-existing color palettes, harvesting component colors for my images from found materials, often from the city's garbage. Rather than working directly with those materials, this series draws from a complete visual experience, and marks a return for me to the use of paint. These paintings do not seek to simulate specific colors, but to establish a set of parameters that includes them all.

"These paintings seek a palette that extends beyond a caricature of color, and like an image of the passing city, form an essay on what it is like to have eyes in the world."

Central Utah Arts Center, 10 February 2006

"Imagine two people sitting across a table from each other.  One slides an object across the table to the other, presenting it for the other's appraisal.  Words, if spoken, are unnecessary, "Look at this," or, "Hey, this is worth looking at."  To me, this is the basic human interaction that we call visual art.

"I think my job as an artist is to make personal endorsements, take a stand for something, and attach my name to the declaration of significance for an object.  In this way, my work is an exercise, and a celebration, of individual responsibility.

"Part of living in New York City is that I do a lot of walking.  I also do a lot of looking and a lot of what I see is garbage.  Cardboard is not beautiful to me, and whatever cardboard means, the efficiency it embodies, the purposes that it serves, is not really transcendent to me.  What is meaningful to me is the idea that someone can take a piece of cardboard and through the application of their own energy and by putting their own name behind it, can make it into something that is interesting to look at."