The Many Arts of Anthony Quinn

Feb 19, 2016 5:48PM

Installation view, “The T'ang Horse: Anthony Quinn”, at Mana Contemporary. Featured work, right: Anthony Quinn, True Lady, 1992. Photo by John Berens. 

By the time he was a teenager, Anthony Quinn had already lived the number of lives he’d eventually bring to life on the silver screen. His father’s untimely death, when Quinn was only 11, thrust him into the working world, where he found odd jobs as a farmhand, a boxer, a preacher, and a newsboy. At the time, Quinn was also working to become both an artist and an actor. After winning a statewide sculpture competition with a plaster bust of Abraham Lincoln, he won a design competition in high school, which earned him the opportunity to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West. Quinn eventually left Wright’s tutelage to pursue acting, a departure that could’ve signaled the end of Quinn’s life as visual artist. Instead, the experience was a foundation on top of which Quinn continued to build for decades, even as he went on to appear in an impressive collection of films—Viva Zapata!, Lust for Life, Lawrence of Arabia, La Strada, and Zorba the Greek, to name just a few.

Unconstrained by any one medium or role, Quinn lived with his eyes wide open to the world. Curious, energetic, and engaged, he put down what he observed however he could. “The T’ang Horse: Anthony Quinn,” at MANA Contemporary, offers a rare view not only into the non-cinema-related artistic production of an Academy Award winner—once for his portrayal of Paul Gauguin, no less—but also into the world of a visual artist who was an equally enthusiastic collector.

T'ang Dynasty Funerary Horse, 7th-10th century, The Anthony Quinn Collection. Photo by John Berens. 

The show’s titular object is a ceramic horse sculpture the actor purchased from an antique shop during his busy teenage years. From that origin, Quinn’s collection branched off into the eclectic but traceable interests of a restless autodidact. By the end of his life, Quinn’s collection totaled over 3,000 objects, varying from rare books to African masks to work by Henri Matisse.

Installation view: “The T'ang Horse: Anthony Quinn”, at Mana Contemporary, 2016. Photo by John Berens. 

What’s clear from Ysabel Pinyol's staging of the exhibition is that Quinn was fully in dialogue with the objects he collected; they didn’t sit idly in storage. Instead, he derived inspiration and insight from them with the eye of an artistic peer as well as a patron.

What ideas he gathered from the study and juxtaposition of different objects, Quinn fashioned into works that were entirely his own. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in True Lady (1992), his room-filling maquette for a metal sculpture that was never completed. The theatrically lit composite-plywood piece hovers between its legibility as the profile of a woman and its abstract geometry suggesting a guitarlike musical instrument. 

The T’ang Horse: Anthony Quinn” is on view at Mana Contemporary Jan. 24–Aug. 1, 2016.

Discover more artists at Mana Contemporary on Artsy.