- Holt Quentel (b. 1961)
The exhibition features four paintings from the 1980s and 1990s, which will be on display for the first time since they were acquired by renowned art dealer Thomas Ammann.
“I can make something look 40 years old in two days. But at some point, it would genuinely have to fall back on itself.” (1)
Part of the New York art scene of the 1980s, emerging artist Holt Quentel made her exit in the 1990s and still remains a recluse. Although memories of the artist and her theory-driven art are evocative of the past, her outlook remains pertinent within the rubric of postmodernism, Western traditions and today’s politicized space of America.
Quentel alluded to the giants of Modernism through her assertive art-making process: stitching together various sized fragments of raw canvas, she would then paint a single bold geometric motif in saturated primary colors. Motifs were limited to geometric shapes, letters, numbers and often crosses: “E’s” and “3’s,”. Quentel’s distressed, unstretched canvases were physically assaulted by electric sanders and put through a commercial washer and dryer before they were hung off frail ropes and nailed onto gallery walls. They appeared like artifices from a very distant past, or perhaps weary-worn battle flags. Her process consumed the canvas, the formal visuals degraded during the art-making process.
In Untitled (1987) a silk screen of a man reaching for a gun in his holster with wrap-around ammunition was painted twice onto the exhausted and stitched canvas. This vintage looking western graphic is a harsh reminder of the obsessive gun culture that is part of American society.
Due to the artificial aging of the canvases, Quentel's paintings, these monumental end objects, display a rough and tumble look, an expression of escaped ontology and entropy. Paradoxically ‘forged byproducts,’ these artifices encompass ideas from art and philosophy to topical issues.
In reference to the expressionistic gestures of Jackson Pollock, the geometric shapes of Frank Stella, and, most importantly, the signage of Jasper Johns, Quentel presents her gesture, her shapes, and signage as actuality: the aesthetic experience is just as critical as the ideas behind the production of art. Her work is heavily reminiscent of Arte Povera, for example Alberto Burri’s sacchi (sacks) series and Lucio Fontana’s Spazialismo (Spatialism).
The focus for Post-War American Art, especially for the Abstract Expressionists, was to manifest an internal feeling. Quentel sources external theories and materializes these theories through historical formal aspects. Hints of Derrida’s logocentrism, Marx’s materialism, Heidegger’s ontology and destruction, Baudrillard’s simulacra and Cixous’ poststructuralist feminist theory can be recognized in Quentel’s choices. Through her own experience and circumstance, she makes the decision to refute or develop them.
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1. Holt Quentel. New York A Late Modernist Discourse I (1988-9). Directed by Francq Volders, Youtube, uploaded by Philip Pocock, May 8, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKmkDDO6aF8