This is a first exhibition in Israel by R.H. Quaytman (b. 1961), who works in "Chapters," groups of paintings which she views as elements relating to one another like words within a sentence. All the paintings of "חקק, Chapter 29," were made following the artist's visits in Israel and are installed in a gallery designed by her specifically for the exhibition.
R.H. Quaytman is an artist based in New York City. In 2005 she was a founding member and director of the cooperative Orchard gallery in the Lower East Side. In 2001 she exhibited at the Queens Museum of Art forty paintings that referenced old newspaper clippings about a train crash that had taken place nearby, in which her grandfather and great-grandfather had been killed. These forty paintings, along with forty other paintings from that period became Chapter 1. Since then, Quaytman has produced paintings in groups she calls "Chapters." Each new exhibition is a new Chapter made in response to a particular set of conditions often to do with the history and architecture of the site. The Chapter is a useful formal apparatus for Quaytman as it allows her to think about the relationship between paintings in a group, akin to paragraphs of a chapter in a novel, and also the relationship between the Chapters themselves.
The paintings are made on wooden panels covered with a gesso layer, and silkscreened. The silkscreens are frequently based on abstract patterns as well as on photographstaken by Quaytman, or found and scanned. Quaytman is interested in the link between contemporary painting and its history as well as other media such as photography and print.
The current exhibition includes 26 paintings, all from recent months, made following the artist's visits to Israel. Quaytman's interest in Walter Benjamin and in Paul Klee's Angelus Novus (1920) at the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, provoked visits to the Gershom Scholem Library at the National Library of Israel. Here, she researched the tangled correspondence between Scholem and Benjamin about Klee's painting and, in one of Scholem's books, came upon the Hebrew word חקק [Haqaq]. The verb's meaning"to engrave" as well as "to legislate"in addition to its strange sound, made her choose it as the exhibition title. While in Israel, she traveled to the desert, where she took photographs to be used later in her paintings and extended her interest in Hebrew typography and the mystical view of the Hebrew alphabet in Kabbalah. All these sources of inspiration have convened into this new series of works.
The exhibition space, as in all of Quaytman's exhibitions, was designed by the artist herself. The walls inside the gallery are built in the shape of the fifth Hebrew letter, He (ה) and correspond with the grid of the ceiling (five by five squares). The Hebrew reading direction, from right to left, becomes a viewing tool for the way the paintings are "read."
Quaytman's exhibition in Tel Aviv Museum of Art
is a milestone towards her first major museum retrospective, to be held at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in 2016. For the Israeli public, this is a chance to experience the work of an important contemporary artist who has been at the very center of recent debates about painting, and its relation to the radical art practices of the 1970s such as Conceptual Art and Institutional Critique.
Guest curator Mark Godfrey, from the Tate Modern, London, has curated exhibitions by Roni Horn, Francis Alÿs, Gerhard Richter, Alighiero Boetti and Sigmar Polke.