Art in America: Harvey Quaytman

March 16, 2017

William S. Smith

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Harvey Quaytman
By: William S. Smith

Harvey Quaytman’s paintings of the 1980s and ’90s, a tight selection of which are on view here, bring the visual rhetoric associated with transcendent abstraction down to earth. Quaytman (1937–2002) is known for works from the 1960s and ’70s that pushed an exploration of shaped canvases as far as it could go without devolving into pure idiosyncrasy or baroque excess. The shapes here are more conventional, mostly squares or lozenges that play against compositions dominated by grids and crosses. There’s something unabashedly blunt about these works, with compositions dominated by a few planes of color (blue and yellow are prominent) that stand out against black-and-white geometric forms more evocative of Mondrian or Malevich than Quaytman’s Neo-Geo contemporaries. But Quaytman’s paintings are as much about subtle surface details as about bold pictorial effects. A few of the canvases, including Hone (1983), which gives the exhibition its title, have been embellished with ground glass. Far from suggesting sublime luminosity, the subtle sparkle brings to mind sandpaper, a point of reference more appropriate for Quaytman’s brand of everyday abstraction.

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