‘Despite my frequent use of photography, the digital, and printmaking techniques, I use the name “painting” to describe what I do. I make paintings in the hope that the following two ideas may be activated: (1) attention, whether from a gaze or a glance, can be contained, reflected, and distracted; (2) that the paintings will correspond to the ever-changing temporal, spatial, and contextual conditions of their placement’ (R.H. Quaytman, Spine, New York 2011, n.p.).
With its multiple layers, hypnotic surface and meticulously researched narrative, in 4. Exhibition Guide, Chapter 15 [Diagonal Pink] R.H. Quaytman presents an optically complex work that challenges the viewer’s sense of perception. Traversing the canvas horizontally, iridescent lines quiver like television static, the interplay of opposing fne black and white bands creating vibrating patterns across a vast plane divided into diagonal segments of black, fuchsia and white. Fading in chromatic density from the left hand side of the canvas to the right, the infinite horizontality of the shimmering lines that cut across the work is juxtaposed with oblique blocks of expansive colour. Exhibited in Quaytman’s first solo museum show in 2010 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, entitled Momentum 15, the present work comes from the artist’s series Chapter 15: Exhibition Guide. Based on archival material from the ICA, Boston, this ‘chapter’ explores the museum’s decision to become independent from the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1948. Creating works based both in reality and illusion, Quaytman painstakingly reproduces, records and manipulates the archival images selected to create works which subtly, yet profoundly, address how vision may be refocused or displaced. Internationally acclaimed, works by Quaytman are housed in major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and Tate, London. 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. Each painting is contextualized by what precedes it, but also stands alone on a visual and technical level.
With its mesmerising effect, 4. Exhibition Guide, Chapter 15 [Diagonal Pink] makes more than a passing reference to the languages of Op Art and Constructivism. Quaytman relishes in the art historical connotations of her process and the attention to surface allowed by silk screening saying, ‘silkscreening 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, ‘R.H. Quaytman’, in Art in America, http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/newsfeatures/ magazine/rh-quaytman/ [accessed 11 January 2015]). Constructed on plywood panels with beveled edges, Quaytman prepares her support with layers of gesso, delighting in the way in which it absorbs paint and interacts with the dot pattern of the silkscreen. The overall effect is an alluring image which requires constant revaluation. Forging links between the past, present and future, Quaytman’s work reinvents the ways in which we view and define painting today.