Lee Quiñones / IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK
Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles
JANUARY 12 – MARCH 2, 2019
Charlie James Gallery presents IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK, Lee Quiñones’s first ever solo gallery show in Los Angeles. Four decades on from his influential mark on New York City’s graffiti movement of the late 1970s that eventually pushed the illicit visual vernacular of the subway graffitists through the lips of contemporary art society, Lee Quiñones has created intimate new works meditating on the passage of time and the organic process by which meaning speaks through his artistic practice.
IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK consists of a series of framed “tablets” – writings on slabs of drywall and wood paneling that once were the walls of Quiñones’s studio(s), which were painstakingly removed during recent years. Unlike the urban landscape largely hostile to his earliest artistic production, these walls have offered an inviting interiority for the artist to perform his spray bomb color tests that ultimately become the foundation of his paintings.
Absent any margins, borders, signposts or obstructions, it is from within these forests of colorful abstraction that Quiñones’s voice begins to break the surface in the form of self-addressed letters, musings, song lyrics and colloquial language. By allowing these words and markings the stillness to develop over time, Quiñones is able to resolve disharmonies in composition, color palette and even discover the titles for his paintings on canvas and paper, such as “Born from Many Apples” and “Nine Lives,” both new works that will debut in the show.
By 1989 the most memorable graffiti works of Lee’s generation had largely disappeared. But included in this show is a selection of never before seen ink on paper drawings that served as preliminary studies for some of Quiñones’s original subway murals. Against a backdrop of visual noise, graffitists have traditionally asserted their public presence through the frenetic medium of the moment, heady acts of subversion arguably as vain as they were brilliant. So in a surprising departure, these sketches reveal a measured approach to preparation within Quiñones’s earliest process that reverberates into the present – a voice that carries.