LOS ANGELES — The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), presents R. H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30, the first major museum survey of work by New York–based artist R. H. Quaytman, organized by MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson. Consisting primarily of oil painting and silkscreen on precisely constructed wood panels, Quaytman’s expansive and ongoing project is organized into site-specific exhibitions that she calls “chapters.” Since 2001, Quaytman has produced 29 of these bodies of work, each drawing on narratives that reference the exhibition location, and all sharing the artist’s now-signature attention to the intersection of craft, life, and a vast network of intellectual and artistic interests. Featuring approximately 65 paintings selected from the past 10 years, including one complete “chapter” from 2011 and a significant cycle of new work made in response to MOCA and its collection, this exhibition is both an in-depth assessment and, as its title suggests, a kind of new beginning.
"R. H. Quaytman makes some of the most visually and intellectually rich art of this moment," says Simpson. "Her paintings are personal, formal, literary, anecdotal, systematic, geometric, narrative, and mysterious. The work's art- historical sensitivity is notable, but so, too, are its reflections of self.”
A point of departure for Quaytman’s newest paintings is Michael Heizer’s seminal earthwork Double Negative (1969– 70), a 240,000-ton excavation and displacement of rhyolite and sandstone that takes the form of two trenches cut into the eastern edge of Nevada’s Mormon Mesa. At the outset of researching her exhibition for Los Angeles, Quaytman was drawn in by the mythology surrounding the North American desert and Double Negative’s particularly complicated relationship to MOCA, as an artwork held in the museum’s collection but one that will always and forever be outside the museum’s walls. In late 2015, Quaytman traveled to southern Nevada to view Heizer’s work, capturing the austere landscape of rock, sand, and light with her Fuji FP-1 instant camera. The resulting photographs serve as a leaping-off point for a group of 22 silkscreen-and-gesso paintings being produced for R. H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30. As a painter whose works are exclusively site-specific—all produced in response to institutional, geographic, or discursive sites and their related subjects—Quaytman is also rigorously engaged in a process of excavation as she digs out histories that are often underrepresented or marginal and, through the sheer beauty of her paintings, compels us to look.
R. H. Quaytman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1961, and grew up between Guilford, Connecticut, and the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Her mother is the renowned experimental poet Susan Howe and her father was Harvey Quaytman, a painter known for his work in geometric abstraction. In what should be understood as a feminist gesture, Quaytman writes, “I use the initials of my given name in order to distance my personhood from my paintings. When exhibiting in public institutions, I request that wall signage about my paintings not include any pronouns.” Quaytman received a BA from Bard College in 1983 and later studied at both the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, Ireland, and the Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques in Paris, where she worked with Daniel Buren and Pontus Hulten. From 1987–91 she worked as a program coordinator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, organizing or assisting on exhibitions of Hilma af Klint and Paul Thek, among other artists. She was awarded the Rome Prize in 1991 and subsequently spent a year working in that city. She later worked as studio assistant to Dan Graham for several years. From 2005–08, Quaytman was founding director of Orchard, a cooperative gallery on the Lower East Side whose 12-person membership comprised other artists, art historians, and curators. Quaytman was a member of the graduate faculty at Bard College and is a frequent lecturer and writer.
Though Quaytman began exhibiting her “chapter” series in 2001, she only began to receive widespread critical acclaim for her work following the closure of Orchard in 2008. New “chapters” have appeared in several museums in recent years, including The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2009); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2010); the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York (2010); Kunsthalle Basel (2011); Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach (2012); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2013); and, most recently, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2015). In 2010, a chapter of her paintings was included in the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in 2011, a chapter was featured in the 54th Venice Biennale. Her work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.
R. H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30 will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, copublished by MOCA and DelMonico Books ∙ Prestel, which will constitute the most comprehensive and scholarly examination of the artist’s work to date. This book features selections from Quaytman’s extensive photographic archive, published here for the first time, alongside new essays by Simpson, art historian Yve-Alain Bois, and philosopher Juliane Rebentisch.