Gerold Miller, The Monoform Show

Gerold Miller, The Monoform Show

Cassina Projects, Milan

September 12 – December 21, 2019

Cassina Projects presents The Monoform Show, a solo show by Gerold Miller, one of the most internationally recognized German artists of his generation whose work blurs the line between Minimalist and Conceptual art. The exhibition itinerary develops through a retrospective that presents a selection of works from the Monoform series for the first time: from the first one dated 2014 to more recent works.

The Monoforms are a series of works which came into being in 2014 with Monoform 1: conceptually and formally, they reveal the maximum material reduction of Gerold Miller’s artistic process which draws inspiration from one of his earliest works; Anlage from 1994, a work that established the parameters of his art and challenged the common and preconceived notion of a traditional pictorial plane representing an open space, shaped and confined by a square or rectangular frame on the wall.

It was precisely during the 1990s that Miller began experimenting, often lacquering the steel frames with paint, dividing the middle space with an additional element, or doubling the width of the frame on one side. In fact, the progressive rejection of spatial boundaries in search of infinity arose in those years: a new concept of image that transcended conventional definitions and conceptually approached the use of space by Italian avant-garde artists of the 1960s. In particular, Miller had been struck by Enrico Castellani’s “Black Angular Surface ” for the innovative relationship between image, wall and space, whom Miller met in 1995 at Villa Merkel in Esslingen during an exhibition on the Zero Movement curated by Renate Wiehager. From the beginning of his artistic career, Gerold Miller has indeed pursued a radical and elegant strategy with the objective of getting outside the image without leaving it. Miller, himself, on the occasion of the inauguration of his solo show Gerold Miller. get ready at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, in 2002 declared – “in my artistic work I try to formulate a new concept of image, which approaches the painting from the maximum possible distance .”

In recent years, Miller has pushed his minimalist approach more and more towards the conceptual through the Monoforms: the space confined by a frame disappears, giving way to works composed of two equally proportioned aluminium bars, hanging horizontally one above the other in which the void and the intermediate space in turn become the central motif of the work. Indicating the wall as the fundamental terrain of creation and dispensing colour and form as the only medium, Miller eliminates the boundaries of abstract painting and minimalist sculpture, taking these categories into the realm of the conceptual.

All Images > courtesy of Cassina Projects, Milan. Photos by Roberto Marossi.

Jay Heikes, Before Common Era

Jay Heikes, Before Common Era

Federica Schiavo, Milan

September 26 – January 18, 2020

Through his use of unexpected pairings of materials, Jay Heikes’ artistic practice reveals the precarious relationships found amongst the infinite matter of the universe. The only son of a chemist and educator, he is particularly fascinated by the alchemy inherent in the never-ending transformation of one substance into another, revealing the histories and processes sometimes hidden below the surface of our natural and unnatural worlds.

Recent political, social and environmental changes that have upset our way of life and, at times, overtaken the content of his recent work, have diverted Heikes’ attention toward the sky in a desperate attempt to escape a sort of post-contemporary society in which there is no solid ground, revealing a futility in dealing with hypocrisy of our times. His words act as a fatalistic warning: “If we heed the lessons in pursuing the sublime, where the beauty stands as the sole reason against fully disappearing into the void, I often wonder if the concept of beauty is becoming a thing of the past where the different set of conditions made such an embrace possible”. With this thought the artist confronts an era that he considers distracted, obsessively self-referential and hypocritical.

In a new series of canvases titled Mother Sky, Heikes approaches his work with the sensibility of a sculptor, employing the chemical processes that have long informed his three-dimensional work. Before screen printing forms resembling smoke and clouds, Heikes stains his surface using a combination of vinegar, salt and powdered pigment. During the chemical reaction, these substances generate vibrant and unpredictable tones that transform his skies into turbulent grounds that predict acidic and inscrutable climatic and social situations.

And as if to raise the spectre of an impossible, elemental presence, Heikes includes a series of sculptures known as Minor Planets, small orbs made of materials as diverse as Bismuth, Copper, Niobium and Lignum Vitae that seem as if they are as ancient as our common era. The metals and complementary materials, which over time oxidize and mutate are yet another testimony to the unpredictability of material and form in a way that for the artist “is not practiced, concise or refined”.

All Images > courtesy of Federica Schiavo, Milan

Benode Behari Mukherjee, After Sight

Benode Behari Mukherjee After Sight

David Zwirner, London

January 10 – February 22, 2020

A pioneering Indian modernist, Mukherjee blended imagery and iconography from Indian life with a signature visual style influenced by Indian, East Asian, and Western art practices and traditions. Mukherjee studied with the celebrated artist Nandalal Bose as one of the first students at the renowned Kala Bhavana, the fine-arts institute founded by the poet Rabindranath Tagore at Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, West Bengal. The curriculum of Kala Bhavana was structured similarly to that of the German Bauhaus (Tagore travelled to Europe often, and he visited the Weimar Bauhaus in 1921), with students encouraged to explore form and style in an open manner with various mentors. Rather than depicting mythological or nationalistic imagery, common themes and subjects among Indian artists at this time, Mukherjee examined nature and his immediate surroundings. He created works in a variety of media, from graphite drawings to wall frescoes, all of which exhibit a deeply modernist yet highly individualistic and contextually specific sensibility towards form, colour, and composition. As art historian Juliet Reynolds writes: ‘[Mukherjee’s] attempt… was to reconcile Indian folk and classical art with far-eastern calligraphic painting, European early-Renaissance conventions and modern idioms.’ After finishing his studies in 1925, Mukherjee joined the faculty at Kala Bhavana, becoming a major influence on subsequent generations of Indian artists. In 1936 and 1937, he spent time in Japan and China and was taken with the landscape and calligraphic traditions of those visual cultures. Born blind in one eye and myopic in the other, the artist lost his eyesight completely in 1957. Rather than ceasing to produce visual art, Mukherjee expanded his practice, continuing not only to create drawings but also to explore more tactile media, such as sculpture and especially collage.  

Benode Behari Mukherjee, Reclining Man, n.d. (detail). © Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation. Photo by Nemai Ghosh

On view will be a range of these late period collages. Evoking the style and format of Henri Matisse’s paper cutouts, Mukherjee’s collages are nevertheless thoroughly distinctive and emblematic of the artist’s own experience and style. He created these works by shaping and organising his figures through touch and deciding on and dictating specific colours for the compositions from memory. The collages also reveal how the artist continued, even after losing his eyesight, to depict subjects and imagery that he had encountered throughout his life—from street processions to Bengali theatre—all rendered from memory in a bold, joyous, and vibrant style. Reclining Man exemplifies Mukherjee’s sensibility. The work depicts a figure with orange skin wearing blue clothing and resting his head against his hand with his knees bent. Though presented in a natural pose, the figure’s body extends diagonally from one corner of the composition to the other, actively drawing the viewer’s eye across the surface of the collage. Pointed blue and red lines match the shape of the bent body, further reinforcing the contained energy within the work. Several collages are entirely abstract, and even in some of the figurative compositions, imagery tenuously balances between the formal components and the representational whole. Collage with Fish (1958) features elements of a traditional still life, yet they are rendered as simple geometric shapes and forms. Collage material fills negative space, visually and materially playing with figure-ground distinctions. Also on view will be a selection of the artist’s felt-tip pen and charcoal drawings. These works exhibit Mukherjee’s remarkable control and energy, underscoring his connection to his media and his ability to grasp spatial order and compositional balance through gesture and the movement of his pen, rather than sight. Emerging from the artist’s deep intuition and understanding of form, a series of dynamic, gestural lines become animals parading through space or figures strolling while holding umbrellas, among other subjects. Highly playful, inventive, and evocative, the works on view testify to the deep connection between Mukherjee and his craft. 

BERNARD VILLERS, Through

BERNARD VILLERS, Through

Irène Laub Gallery, Brussels

10 January 2020 – 22 February 2020

After training in monumental painting at the École nationale supérieure des Arts visuels of La Cambre with Paul Delvaux and Jo Delahaut, Bernard Villers developed his pictorial research and became a leading figure of the Belgian art scene. His sensitive and innovative approach was celebrated in a retrospective exhibition at the Botanique art center (Brussels, BE) in 2018. Bernard Villers’ practice questions the traditional relationship between support and color, revealing a true symbiotic interaction and fostering an equal dialogue between those two essential elements. The artist diverts the viewer’s expectations by proposing chromatic interventions that are direct and minimal without being devoid of emotion: the beauty of everyday life reveals itself in the subtle imperfections of Bernard Villers’ lines.

Bernard Villers, Cageot, 2019

His artworks are present in the collections of FRAC Bretagne, Rennes (FR), FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon (FR), Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (FR), Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (BE), Centre de la Gravure, La Louvière (BE), Fondation Gordon Matta-Clark, Antwerp (BE), Collection FWB, Brussels (BE), Musée d’Ixelles, Brussels (BE), Musée royal de Mariemont, Morlanwelz (BE), Serralves, Porto (PT), Werserburg Museum, Bremen (DE), among others.

JOSE DÁVILA THE MOMENT OF SUSPENSION

JOSE DÁVILA THE MOMENT OF SUSPENSION

KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin

ST. AGNES, NAVE

26 OCTOBER – 20 DECEMBER 2019

Over the course of a career spanning more than 20 years, Guadalajara-based Jose Dávila has engaged with the architecture, symbolism, and material integration of space. For his third solo exhibition at König Galerie, he has poised disparate kinds of lithic bodies—ranging from basalt stone and volcanic rock, to more quotidian materials like limestone and concrete—against each other to create a delicate interaction of volume and mass. Intimating utopian ideals, uncut rock and sculpted concrete are brought into uneasy congruence, realizing an equilibrium that holds differently weighted materials in place.


While the language of sculpture traditionally speaks to solidity and permanence, Dávila’s work evinces a decided fragility that contrasts with the density of the materials he puts to use. As though verging on the brink of collapse, his take on sculptural form introduces viewers to a clash  of directional energies, resulting in a precarious appearance that undercuts monolithic stability. What comes to light is less a single unified object than an exchange of physical forces, a cross-section of elemental processes that refer to the inexorable law of gravity. 

Dávila’s articulation of space mimics primal human behaviors, such as stacking and balancing, underscoring their capacity to express a collectively shared impulse toward construction. Several works in The Moment of Suspension feature uncut rock tethered to angular concrete blocks by a ratchet strap. An aura of weightlessness halos the topography of the linked stones. As individual works, these layered sculptures foreground the disintegrating influence of time, concretizing an entropic process that ends in perpetual stasis. 

Places of meeting and points of intersection also constitute recurring aspects of Dávila’s work. His architectural eye recasts volume itself as a raw material, using vertical surfaces, rectangles, and spheroid shapes to signify development and growth. The makeshift stratification underlying each sculpture invokes the uniqueness of a once visited place, or remembered physique, preserving only its constructed essence. 

A holistic attitude cuts through The Moment of Suspension. Every work on exhibit embodies an architectural rhythm where the vastness of geologic time becomes affixed to the spatial planes of a concrete surface. The necessary union of each element functions like the organs of a body, the vehicle of consciousness. Blending structural innovation with a cosmological understanding of duration, Dávila shows how individuated parts relate to an overarching design. If the microcosm is removed, the macrocosm collapses. 

Jeffrey Grunthaner 

All images > Jose Dávila, The Moment of Suspension, 2019, installation view, photo by Roman März

Adam Silverman / Punctum

Adam Silverman / Punctum

Philip Martin Gallery , Los Angeles

9 November 2019 – 4 January 2020

Adam Silverman’s pots reveal the directness and energy with which they are made. A 25-pound block of clay is laid on a spinning potter’s wheel, then “pulled” upwards by Silverman in a gesture that has sustained and fascinated humans for thousands of years. Silverman’s gesture is one that has historically provided the means by which we store the items we need; at the same time, it is a gesture that through its simple beauty, and the elegance of its product, expresses who we are. 

Adam Silverman’s pots reflect the basic questions that continually draw us back to art-making. How are art objects made? Who makes them? Why? In Silverman’s work, we see the evidence of the maker. His hands mold and push the clay during and after the throwing process. His tools – which are evident in the lines, forms and surfaces of these works – are picks and knives, sticks, and even baseball bats. His finishes are formed through multiple firings – with the pot in a range of orientations. Their colors are affixed in the molten heat of the kiln; their richly textured surfaces mark the path of the fire in that kiln chamber. Across these pots we see accretions of ash, and if we consider further, we see traces of the origin points of Silverman’s glaze materials – the beach clay, corn husks, seaweed and the other materials that Silverman finds on the streets of Los Angeles, on the shoreline or in the woods in Rhode Island where he works in the summer.

In addition to asking basic questions about human expression, Silverman’s pots reflect on Modernist ideas over a century old, such as truth-to-materials. The foot of each pot in the exhibition, for example, is the remnants of the 25-pound-block of clay from which it was made. Silverman is constantly experimenting with clay composition, form, kiln temperature, and finish. They sag and warp in unpredictable ways.

As the title of the exhibition suggests, before this show, Silverman thinks sometimes about the writing of French theorist Roland Barthes. After the death of his mother, Roland Barthes famously reflected on the unique power that artworks have – in his case a photograph – and how they strike viewers. Barthes comments that artworks have an intensely subjective effect, like a pinprick, or in his language, they have punctum. This deep connection between who we are, what we make and how we look at things is key to both the enjoyment and the critique within Silverman’s work. As dean Nader Tehrani writes in his forward to Silverman’s recent solo exhibition at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, it is “a refreshing advent to witness the punishment and brutality of a process that can yield aesthetic reappraisal while tipping it into critical discourse.” Or, as Rose Slivka wrote in “The New Ceramic Presence” – her ground-breaking 1961 essay on ceramics in America – “Not unified by blood or national origin (everyone is from some place else)… we’re a restless people.” Slivka then goes on to say that, “By giving the inherent nature of the [ceramic] material greater freedom to assert its possibilities – possibilities generated by the individual, personal quality of the artist’s specific handling – the artist underscores the multiplicity of life (the life of materials and his own), the events and changes that take place during his creative act.”

Silverman’s exhibition features a series of raised platforms designed by the artist. Formally educated in architecture and with a deep interest in modern dance, Silverman has studied Le Corbusier, Tadao Ando, and Merce Cunningham as much as Hans Coper and Peter Voulkos. In asking us to move our bodies through space, and by moving his works to our eye level, Silverman creates a direct relationship between us and his pots, hopefully enabling that sense of punctum for viewers – a moment of connection, reflection and critique.

Adam SILVERMAN (b. 1963, New York, NY) received his BFA and B.Arch from the Rhode Island School of Design. Silverman’s work is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Philip Martin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA) and was recently the subject of solo exhibitions at Cooper Union (New York, NY) and Curator’s Cube (Tokyo, Japan). His work has been included in solo exhibitions at such museums and galleries as Friedman Benda (New York, NY); Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, TX); Laguna Art Museum (Laguna Beach, CA); Pierre Marie Giraud (Brussels, Belgium); and Tomio Koyama Gallery (Tokyo, Japan). Silverman’s two-person installation, Boolean Valley, a collaboration with Nader Tehrani, travelled from San Jose Museum of Art (San Jose, CA) to the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA), followed by the Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas, TX). In 2013, a major monograph on his work, Adam Silverman Ceramics was published by Rizzoli. Silverman’s work is in the collections of such museums as Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA); Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas, TX); Palm Springs Museum of Art (Palm Springs, CA); Israel Museum (Jerusalem, Israel); Rhode Island School of Design Museum (Providence, RI); and Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT). His work has been discussed in such publications as Artforum,WallpaperArchitectural DigestThe New York Times,and Los Angeles Times. Silverman lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

All images > Installation view Adam Silverman punctum, courtesy Philip Martin Gallery , Los Angeles

Ève Chabanon : The Surplus

Ève Chabanon : The Surplus

BÉTONSALON – CENTRE D’ART ET DE RECHERCHE, Paris

29 January 2020 – 25 April 2020

Eating Each Other, Ève Chabanon, The Engine Room, Te Whare Hēra – Wellington International Artist Residency, Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand (2019). Image: Harry Culy.

Curated by Mélanie Bouteloup

In January 2020, Bétonsalon – Center for Art and Research pre­sents The Surplus, Ève Chabanon’s first solo exhi­bi­tion in France. It is orga­nized around the eco­nomic notion of « sur­plus », a term that refers to the dif­fer­ence between the amount a person would be willing to accept for a good, com­pared to what they can receive by selling it at the market price. The exhi­bi­tion comes at a time when Ève Chabanon’s artistic prac­tice is being rede­fined, as she has so far been involved in long-term pro­jects involving marginal­ized ter­ri­to­ries and com­mu­ni­ties to create spaces for dia­logue and cre­ation. It con­sti­tutes both an inven­tory, a con­clu­sion and a step aisde from the arbores­cent pro­ject The Surplus of the non-pro­ducer, started by Ève Chabanon in 2016, which chal­lenges the notion of « sur­plus » to attribute it to those whom the artist calls «non-pro­ducers»: artists, crafts­people or pro­fes­sionals in exile and set­tled in the Paris region who, for eco­nomic, legal and admin­is­tra­tive rea­sons, struggle to accom­plish their prac­tices.

Starting from the con­tra­dic­tions inherent in col­lab­o­ra­tive logics, the artist imag­ines an instal­la­tion based on a series of func­tional and sculp­tural ceramic objects that blend dif­ferent shapes, texts and images. Made avail­able for sale during the exhi­bi­tion, these objects ques­tion notions of value, economy and arti­sanal pro­duc­tion in rela­tion to which all visual artists nec­es­sarily define them­selves. This spec­u­la­tion around objects and words, at the same time fic­tional, emo­tional and poetic, allows the artist to define her own sur­plus.

Ève Chabanon (1989, France) lives and works in Brussels. She grad­u­ated from the Haute École des Arts du Rhin (HEAR) in Strasbourg in 2013, before com­pleting a Master’s Degree in Curating at the Sorbonne Université, Paris in 2014 and taking part in the Open School East in London and Margate in 2016. She has under­taken res­i­den­cies at the White House in Dagenham in 2017, at the FRAC Grand Large in Dunkirk in 2018 and at Te Whare Hēra, Wellington, New Zealand in 2019, fol­lowing which her first solo exhi­bi­tion, Eating Each Other, was held. She was awarded the Sciences Po prize for con­tem­po­rary art in 2018 for her pro­ject The Anti-Social Social Club: Episode One, The Chamber of the Dispossessed. Her work has been exhib­ited in La Manutention, a per­for­mance pro­gram at the Palais de Tokyo in 2018, and in group shows such as The Stratagems of the Intellect at Parc Saint Léger in 2016, The center cannot holdat Lafayette Anticipations in 2018 and take (a)back the economy at the CAC Chanot, Clamart in 2019.

DAN GRAHAM New Work

DAN GRAHAM New Work

Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris

7 November 2019 – 11 January 2020

Interested in the socio-political function of art, Dan Graham has been creating a series of works, architectural models and sculptures for public use since the late ‘70s. The physical and visual experience of the audience is an inherent part of the works. “Neo-Baroque Walkway,” Dan Graham’s latest pavilion, will be on view on the Marian Goodman gallery groundfloor.

Dan Graham, Glass Office Building/Window Highway Restaurant, 1978/1969

“Experiencing “Neo-Baroque Walkway, ” the spectators walk through a narrow passage between two convoluted sine wave-like opposing two-way mirror coated glass walls. The two sides of convoluted forms slightly vary. The experience for the viewer involves a somewhat psychedelic, optical distortion of the spectator’s body which might be superimposed on images of other spectators’ bodies.”

Dan Graham, 2019

Dan Graham, Neo-Baroque Walkway, 2019

Whereas Dan Graham, in the same Marian Goodman Gallery space, presented four years ago, “Passage Intime,” which may have suggested the perils of romantic love, “Neo-Baroque Walkway” is more of a “fun-house” for children. Every pavilion designed by Graham, although consisting invariably of two-way mirror glass and stainless steel, owns his unique structure and his unique concept deriving from multiple, yet precise references. For the “Neo- Baroque Walkway,” the artist refers to the baroque movement as the main source of inspiration, as well as John Chamberlain, an artist whose work has largely influenced him (in particular for his earlier pieces, “Design for Showing Videos” and “Homes for America”). Surprisingly, the connection between Chamberlain’s art and baroque sculpture dates back from 1964, when Donald Judd wrote in a review: “Chamberlain’s sculpture is simultaneously turbulent, passionate, cool and hard. The structure is the passionate part. The obvious comparison is to the structure of Baroque art (….)” 1 A few decades later, in a 2011 article about John Chamberlain, Graham continued further somehow Judd’s comparison, this time associating Chamberlain’s work to Larry Bell’s: “Chamberlain began using Larry Bell’s coating machine to realize a series of convoluted near-transparent and semi-reflective forms, which resembled topologically distorted Klein bottles.”

KAREL APPEL Late Nudes, 1985 – 1995

KAREL APPEL Late Nudes, 1985 – 1995

Galerie Max Hetzler announces its first solo exhibition with late nude paintings and drawings by Karel Appel.

NUDE N°6, 1994

A founding figure of CoBrA (1948-1951), which developed from the Dutch Experimental Group (1948), Karel Appel began his career in the aftermath of the Second World War. Over the course of six decades, the artist experimented widely, across painting, sculpture, drawing, and stage design, distinguishing himself for his astonishing capacity to innovate; Appel never settled in a signature style, media or subject. Going beyond his classical, academic training at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, the artist looked at folk art, as well as the uninhibited work of children and the mentally ill, whilst also drawing from jazz’s spirit of improvisation. Alternating between abstraction and figuration, Appel adopted a material-oriented approach in his practice, and promoted a genuine form of expression, an art which writer and curator Klaus Ottmann describes as “divorced from any political or didactic purpose”.

NUDE N°12, 1994

In 1994, in his New York studio, Karel Appel started a new series of nudes – female and male. […] The paintings have a vertical format and are narrow, so that the upright human figure only fits tightly within, as if placed in a box. The surface is strongly dominated by the figure that appears in each painting in a different, expressive position.
The standing, frontal nude is a recurring topic in Appel’s oeuvre. Although he also made reclining nudes, usually in the traditional or classical connection with landscapes, he prefers the standing nude, that is, the figure who is not at rest. Reclining nudes are almost always idyllic and dreamy, that is their aesthetic role. The upright nude can move at any moment and change position. This movement could be abrupt, slow, dramatic, violent, aggressive; the painter can derive and develop a number of different expressions from this figure. This seemed to be also the artist’s intention.
To get a clearer picture of movements and to better direct expressions, Appel has worked with models. The contact with the living, moving model (opposite the artist’s lurking and measuring eyes) has given these new nudes a great freshness. This is mainly due to the attractive mobility of the nudes; it would have been said, at Rembrandt’s time, to be a very ‘graceful leap’. This mobility, lifelikeness, can be seen as a logical translation in the way the nudes are painted: with passionate, powerful strokes in bright colors. The painter’s movements are compressed on the narrow surface, making them appear all the more intense. Created within the focused atmosphere of the studio, these paintings are pure, freely executed studies – exuberant paintings from a painter who, [as he got older, only grew].” 

Rudi Fuchs, 1995

NUDE N°27, 1995
NUDE N°11, 1994

I paint the nude not in order to imitate nature, nor to come as close as possible to nature. I use the nude as inspiration for making a painting which is called a nude. For all that freedom that I won after fifty years of painting – freedom and technique, color and design – is then suddenly concentrated in the form of a nude. And every nude gives it yet another vibration, another emotional association, and this leads to a painting which is different in color and form. I look very much for a form which is more or less different. There’s not a whole lot you can do with a nude. We all have two arms, two legs, two eyes, a head, so that’s what you’ve got to work with.”

Karel Appel, 1995

Harvey Quaytman at Blum&Poe

Harvey Quaytman

Blum&Poe, Los Angeles

November 9, 2019 – January 11, 2020

Blum & Poe presents a selected survey of work spanning three decades by the late artist Harvey Quaytman. This is the gallery’s first exhibition of work by this critical figure in late-20th century American abstraction following the announcement earlier this year of co-representation of the artist’s estate along with Van Doren Waxter.

Harvey Quaytman , Second Cupola Capella, 1969

Harvey Quaytman (b. 1937, Rockaway, NY; d. 2002, New York, NY) came of age in the downtown art scene of 1960s New York, living and working in SoHo studios first on Grand Street and later at 231 Bowery, where he would remain through the late ’90s. Long considered an artist’s artist, the painter enjoyed a close-knit and vibrant artistic and social milieu, over the years sharing studio addresses with Brice Marden, Ron Gorchov, and James Rosenquist, among others. Quaytman’s emerging career as a young painter began in the heyday of Ab Ex with a marked allegiance to Gorky and de Kooning. This approach was slowly shed as the decade unfolded, as his work began to lean towards sculpture—compositions with curvilinear shaped canvases and rectilinear U-shaped bases that inhabited a newfound objecthood. This was followed by a forty-year engagement with geometric abstraction, his approach to painting in contradistinction to the prevailing trends of the era—first with Pop Art and later Neo Expressionism. Despite painting being declared “dead” by Minimalist and Conceptual artists of the time, Quaytman maintained a commitment to the medium and to his vision throughout, helping to shape an alternate trajectory for American painting.

Harvey Quaytman , Stopwatch, 1969

The artist’s work in the ‘70s developed into shield-like forms that balance on curved platforms, conjuring a motion that would result in a critic calling them “rocking rectangles”—the body of work later known simply as “rocker” paintings. These eccentrically shaped works were hand-crafted (he would steam and bend the wooden stretchers himself), and inherently related to movement—inspired by Islamic calligraphy, rocking chairs, and the flight patterns of airplanes and birds. His experiments with shape continued in the late ‘70s, and through the manipulation of geometric intersections and overlapping forms that all the while imply motion, a unique group of paintings resembling anchors or pendulums emerged. In the 1980s, Quaytman began his cruciform paintings, investigations of the cross shape not as emblem but as two meeting vectors; Constructivist, perpendicular geometric compositions that focused on the reduced palette of black, white, red, rusted iron, and metallic gold. While these paintings represented a stark departure from his previous work, Quaytman continued to pursue visual movement as he conjured an interplay of symmetry and asymmetry.

Harvey Quaytman , Mirror to Damascus, 1971

As his paintings evolved in form and shape, variously touching upon Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Process Art, and Constructivism, Quaytman simultaneously developed a rigorous practice of experimentation with pigment. He was interested in the history, alchemy, and chromatic effects of color, seeking out unique tonalities at specialty stores at home and abroad, becoming a master of color and texture. He skillfully poured paint, spreading Rhoplex over canvas with broad wallpaper brushes after dusting it with pure pigment that settled in thick, unpredictable strata. He later flecked canvas with glass or iron filings and used additives such as marble dust in paint he always mixed himself. On this subject, he said: “It is very important to me to be reminded that I am not an alchemist but a man engaged in coded, layered conversation with my fellow man on what I hope to be (on another) level than words or music.” Quaytman was a self-professed “art soldier,” and as his artist daughter R.H. Quaytman has said, with “the daydream soul of an aesthete.” The works on view here span the initial thirty years of the artist’s career, a body of work committed to modernist abstractions despite continual pronouncements of obsolescence, concerning both Modernism and painting itself.


PUBLICATION LISTED IN THE ITALIAN PRESS REGISTER BY THE SASSARI COURT OF LAW WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER 447/2017.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: ALICE ZUCCA

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