70th – Harvey Quaytman
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Harvey Quaytman at McKee Gallery
What do we call Harvey Quaytman now? He is a hard-edged abstract artist, relinquished to the second tier if you rate him by currently visible museum holdings and gallery shows. Though Quaytman, a NY native, showed extensively during his life he seems to have fallen into a non-viable category of artists. I suppose all I can do is claim institutional ignorance. The wind seems to have changed directions as a Quaytman monograph has just been released by Phaidon (I enjoyed this short film Phaidon produced with his daughters R.H. Quaytman and Emma Quaytman) he has a show at his longtime gallery McKee and some recent good press (Gallerist, AiA, Artinfo) to stir things up.
When I look at Quaytman I see an innovator that may have gotten (happily) stuck later in his career on a single proposition. I think of Robert Irwin working out various ideas early in his career, obsessing over his line and dot paintings (I am reading Lawrence Weschler’s fantastic Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, so it is at the front of my mind) and then when breaking through, moving on completely to the next project. Here Quaytman worked himself into a corner, that corner being the repetition of cruciform, and stayed happily stuck within that limitation.
At McKee, the shaped surface pieces are remarkable. Others were working in this vein but the construct of the piece is equivalent to its surface. The balance of these elements (surface, form, and color) is reminiscent of Robert Mangold and Frank Stella’s works from the same period. Tip, a piece that is both dark and subtle, reads quickly as jet black but when closely examined has a varied texture that captures light on its mottled surface. The incised lines of white and painted lines of red upend the piece, dragging the eye skyward while the lower right tips toward the earth. With opposing visual cues, the viewer gets to play Quaytman’s game while their eye races around his layered irregular shapes.
Untitled, 1974 and Plumbline, 1977 are the other showstoppers. Both are shaped works and exhibit his marriage of painting and sculpture with its nakedly visible brush stroke and well-engineered canvas. Many traditionally shaped works in the exhibition also draw your awareness to their structure. The cruciform shapes of the 80’s are more like the stretchers of a canvas exposed.
Quaytman clearly has much to offer. I greatly look forward to reading Dore Ashton’s catalog and getting to know who Harvey Quaytman was and maybe who he will be to us in the future.
A few notes about friends of Atlas:
At bkbx gallery at Proteus Gowanus until March 2nd is Palampore, An exhibit of ceramics and drawings by Anne-Marie McIntyre. Anne-Marie’s show is lovely. The work is full of vivid color, luscious texture and surprising pattern. Two large groups of drawings are hung salon style with portions masked by semi-transparent fabric. These can exist in an ever expanding variety.
Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt at the Blanton Museum in Austin was curated by Veronica Roberts. The accompanying catalog from Yale University Press with essays by Roberts, Lucy Lippard and Kirsten Swenson is gorgeous. I saw the precursor to this show at Craig F. Starr Gallery in 2011, and while I know I will miss this greatly expanded version, I urge any of you who can to make the trip.
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