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The Neuberger Museum of Art Presents R. H. Quaytman: Spine, Chapter 20
R. H. Quaytman, Spine, Chapter 20, 2010. Oil, silkscreen ink and gesso on wood, 32 3/8 x 32 3/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery, NY.
NEW YORK, NY.- Between December 1 and March 19, the Neuberger Museum of Art presents R. H. Quaytman: Spine, Chapter 20, a compelling new chapter in the comprehensive and sequential narrative of the artist’s paintings of the last decade. The exhibition was curated by Former Director Thom Collins with assistance by Avis Larson, Assistant Curator.

Quaytman considers each body of work a new "chapter" in an ongoing investigation of painting through the interrelationship of exhibition site, history, and abstraction. Unlike previous chapters, Spine, Chapter 20 does not take the exhibition site as its primary source. Rather, these paintings glance retrospectively through a reengagement of images and motifs arrived at over a decade of work. Using imagery borrowed from photography, mass media, pop culture, historical writings, art history and architecture, the subject matter includes other artworks, other artists, perspective, optical grids, color and illumination. Quaytman’s paintings weave personal, historical and formal narratives to explore the contexts in which a painting can be viewed and interpreted, inviting the viewer to look from one painting to another, considering individual works within the context of the group.

Quaytman’s approach is literary at heart, evoking the organization of a book – its archival structure, how it is named, how it is filed or archived. Since 2001, the artist has used the term ‘book’ to describe the over-arching structure within which the paintings are generated. Spine as a whole forms a ‘meta-index’ and, as such, is regarded as a retrospective made almost entirely of new paintings. A story about many stories, Spine is like flipping through a datebook of experiences, people, and places.

Spine, Chapter 20 features five sets of new paintings, scattered among which are a selection of small hand-painted abstractions from the artist’s previous ‘chapters’. The abstractions, or ‘captions’, serve as punctuation marks for the other mechanically produced images. Like pages that can be turned back and forth, images from the artist’s past paintings appear and reappear, creating overlapping and intertwined narratives.

The beveled wood panels that Quaytman paints on are modest in scale and interrelated in size. All are primed with a gesso made from rabbit skin glue and chalk before silkscreen ink and/or oil paint is applied. Many of the photographically based works have hand painted elements as well; often it is a trompe l’oeil of the beveled edge of the panels. In this chapter Quaytman has painted a thin strip of lines – a spine, so to speak – painted in red, green, and blue (RGB). According to the artist, the colors allude to the RGB color model used in computer monitors and TV screens. Says Quaytman, “RGB is counter intuitive to the subtractive color model (CMYK) generally used in silk screens. In the past I have used cyan, magenta, yellow and lack to obtain a full color spectrum. However in these paintings, I have restricted the palate to various combinations of red, green, blue, black and white.”

The works in Spine, Chapter 20 will be installed on an 80-foot wall, diagonally bisecting the gallery space. This plan, conceived by the artist, references the page of an open book, the shape of an arrow (a motif that recurs in the artist’s work), and most importantly perspective itself. In many ways these three concepts – the book, the arrow, and perspective – provide the armature for this new chapter of the artist’s paintings.

Neuberger Museum of Art | Thom Collins | R. H. Quaytman |


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