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R.H. Quaytman (B. 1961)
R.H. Quaytman (B. 1961)

Cherchez Holopherne, Chapter 21 (Assawin Gethutaworn)

R.H. Quaytman (B. 1961)
Cherchez Holopherne, Chapter 21 (Assawin Gethutaworn)
signed, titled and dated 'R.H. Quaytman, “Cherchez Holopherne!, Chapter 21 (Assawin Gethutaworn),” 2011' (on the reverse)
silkscreen ink, oil and gesso on wood
32½ x 20in. (82.5 x 50.8cm.)
Executed in 2011
Private Collection.

Lot Essay

Cherchez Holopherne, Chapter 21 (Assawin Gethutaworn) presents the viewer with a thought-provoking story through a combination of technical processes and personal history. With works held in the permanent collections of many major galleries such Museum of Modern Art, New York and Tate Modern, London, R.H. Quaytman holds a strong position on the map of contemporary art. The present work is a deeply engaging and almost mystical example of the Chapter 21 series, as Quaytman opens the door on a new artistic perspective.

Through a series of carefully plotted pictorial devices, Quaytman divides the composition, first through the doorway of the photograph, then the application of a striated band, overlaid with a blue-tinged filter on the left hand side. The layers play with the reflection seen on the glass of the shop window and the glass behind the figure, which complicate a straightforward reading of the space. Edges are a recurring theme in Quaytman’s work, seen in the overlaid strip in the present work. The line here works not as a division but perform more like a hinge, joining the two experiences and perspectives together.

The tactile surface of the piece draws the eye in, the trompe l’oeil of the overlay makes one aware of the physical sense of perception, processing both surface and content. The subtle overlapping layers introduce a further sense of depth into the composition while also introducing texture to the work, achieved by Quaytman’s multiple artistic processes. Cherchez Holopherne, Chapter 21 (Assawin Gethutaworn) is made on a plywood panel with the image silkscreened on top. Quaytman relishes in the attention to the surface allowed by silk-screening and the connotations achieved by its art historical legacy, saying ‘silk-screening has given me access to content without my having to paint it with a brush. I’ve found it liberating. And since any medium or form in painting brings its own cast of ghosts, it has allowed me to tap into a genealogy of painters who have dealt with photography – Rauschenberg, Warhol, Polke and
Richter among them. Silk-screening abstracts the photograph, materializes it and snaps attention back to the picture plane’
(R.H. Quaytman, quoted in S. Stillman, Art in America Magazine,
http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/magazine/rh-quaytman/ [accessed 14th August 201].).

The title of the work informs our broader understanding of it. Quaytman’s paintings are organized into chronological chapters bound by a unifying theme. A series which began in 2001, the Chapters in many ways represent Quaytman’s arrival into the artistic canon. For example, Distracting Distance, Chapter 16, was specifically conceived for the 2010 Whitney Biennial and references the Whitney’s
building and history. Each single artwork performs as a ‘word’, which Quaytman curates along with all the other pieces in the series to create a ‘sentence’. Quaytman’s further engages with this idea by curating spaces in which full chapters are displayed, enabling varying narrative elements to interact with each other. The works are bracketed between series; each painting is contextualized by what precedes it, but also stands alone as an absorbing work of art on a visual and technical level.

The combination of literary and artistic tropes in Quaytman’s work is informed by her biography: her mother is the renowned poet Susan Howe and her father is the late painter Harvey Quaytman. Interweaving the multiple influences of her upbringing in the creatively thriving area of SoHo, New York in the 1960s, Quaytman utilizes modern practices to produce a stylized aesthetic. Appearing almost like a filmextract, or indeed, a snapshot, this aesthetic is achieved through intentional rules and systems which the artist rigously plays out to tell stories. Indeed, the present work is ultimately about storytelling: in appropriating images from a variety of
sources, both personal and art historical, the artist allows her pieces to evoke many narratives,

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