‘As in Chapter 2, the central image of this chapter is a photo-based silkscreen depicting a mirror image replica of Katarzyna Kobro’s Spatial Composition 2 (1928) that I originally fabricated in 1999. I conceived the paintings to be exhibited in a shelving unit. This time seven paintings were arranged facing outward rather than how I exhibited them sideways at Orchard. They were stacked from large to small and horizontal to vertical so that at least a portion of each one could be seen’ (R.H. Quaytman, Spine, New York 2011, p. 215).
One of only four full-scale installations in R.H. Quaytman’s erudite practice, Constructivismes, Chapter 13 is a work of ravishing optical complexity, arranged over nine discrete canvases and presented stacked within a wooden shelving unit. While Quaytman’s multi-part works are housed in major museum collections internationally – including iamb: Chapter 12, Excerpts and Exceptions, with Painting Rack, 2001-2009 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Voyelle, Chapter 26, 2013 (Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna) – the present work constitutes an example of just two installations by the artist in which each element is derived from a single ‘chapter’ of her oeuvre. The other, I Modi, Chapter 22, 2011, was exhibited to great acclaim in the 54th International Art Exhibition of the 2011 Venice Biennale, curated by Bice Curiger.
Inspired by early twentieth-century sculptor, Katarzyna Kobro’s modernist theory of ‘unism’, in Constructivismes, Chapter 13, Quaytman complicates Kobro’s thesis, which proposes an art that need not respond to phenomena beyond the a priori limits of the picture’s frame. With her collection of silkscreened paintings, Quaytman seeks to shift the parameters of each individual painting beyond the frame, collapsing the pictorial, the abstract and the architectural within a single unit, which results in an installation that subtly, yet profoundly, addresses how vision may be refocused or displaced. Quaytman’s oeuvre is structured like a book, each site-specific work organized into chronological chapters bound by a unifying theme. Each single artwork performs as a ‘word’, which Quaytman aligns with the other pieces in the series to create a ‘sentence’. Quaytman further expands this idea by curating spaces in which full chapters are displayed, enabling varying narrative elements to interact with each other. She writes, ‘[The works] display images and patterns generated by the specifics of the place in which they were first shown. On another level, the paintings negotiate something more complex. They function as a suture between two movements: the transference of the pictured image onto a painted presence/present that laterally, instead of frontally, directs attention; and the subsequent circulation of the paintings as it either folds into the archive of the book/studio or embarks into the world – archive to ark’ (R.H. Quaytman, Spine, New York 2011, n.p.).