R. H. Quaytman

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R. H. Quaytman
Born 1961
Nationality American
Education Bard College
Notable work Chapters 1-27
Movement Abstract Art
Awards Rome Prize 1991
Abreu Gallery

R. H. Quaytman is a contemporary artist, best known for paintings on wood panels, using abstract and photographic elements in site-specific "Chapters", now numbering twenty-five. Each Chapter is guided by architectural, historical and social characteristics of the original site. Since 2008, her work has been collected by a number of modern art museums.[1] She is also an educator and author, and is based in New York City.

Life and career[edit]

Rebecca Howe Quaytman was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1961. Her mother is the noted American postmodern poet Susan Howe, and her father was abstract painter Harvey Quaytman, well known for geometric works, with over 60 one-person exhibits.[2][3] Her parents met while studying painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The family moved to the SoHo neighborhood of New York City in 1963. When Rebecca was 4, her mother began living with and later married David von Schlegell, an abstract artist and sculptor who became the director of graduate studies in sculpture at Yale University.[4] R. H. Quaytman credits both father and step-father with greatly influencing her development as an artist.[5]

Quaytman grew up between SoHo and Guilford, Connecticut, and received a BA from Bard College in 1983. In 1987 she was hired by PS1, later becoming Program Coordinator for three years. She later worked as an assistant to artist Dan Graham.[5] In 1991, she was awarded the Rome Prize allowing a full year of dedicated work. Additionally she studied for one year at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, Ireland, and later the attended Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques in Paris to study with Daniel Buren and Pontus Hultén.[5]

In 1995, Quaytman married cinematographer and artist Jeff Preiss in Las Vegas.[6] Their daughter Iris was born in 1995,[7] but beginning at age 11, Iris began gender reassignment,[8] and is now Isaac.[9][10] At the age of 17, Isaac participated in a public art project by Diana Scholl and Laurel Golio, interviewing and photographing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and his mother has been an LBGT advocate.[8][11] The family resides in New York and Guilford. Quaytman's half-sister is Emma Quaytman, and her half-brother is Mark von Schlegell.[2][12]

In 2005, Quaytman was a founding member and the Director of a cooperative gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side called "Orchard", run by twelve partners, including artists, filmmakers, art historians and curators.[13] Since 2006 she has been on the faculty of Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, teaching painting in the Masters of Fine Arts program,[14] and is frequently a visiting artist, scholar or lecturer at other colleges and museums.[15]


After winning the 1992 Rome Prize, in that year of uninterrupted time to pursue artistic development, Quaytman began to make a series of paintings which belonged together, which she described as "sentences." She cites her epiphany as "The stance of the painting is the profile", after which she thought of her paintings in the context of the audience walking by, grouped together and observed with peripheral vision.[5]

After working as an assistant to Dan Graham, who had been experimenting with time-delay video installations, she began to use photographic images in her work, which she applies with silkscreening. A silkscreen of Graham himself would later be featured in her work.[16] She found the use of silkscreening to be liberating, and cites influence from Rauschenberg, Warhol, Polke and Richter.[17]

In 2001, she was invited to participate in a show at the Queens Museum of Art, for which she made 40 paintings, in recognition of her 40th birthday, plus another 40 for a local gallery. The 80 paintings were all linked conceptually, and formed the first "chapter": "The Sun, Chapter 1".[5] In the exhibit, she references the death of her grandfather and great-grandfather, by train crash near the location in Queens, building on a newspaper article clipped from the New York Sun.[17]

Each subsequent chapter reflects and adapts elements of the venue in which they are initially shown. For "Lodz Poem, Chapter 2", at the Lodz Poland Biennial, she focused on two early Polish modernists, Katarzyna Kobro and Wladyslaw Strzeminski, interweaving caption paintings and drawings from the World War II-era artists.[5]

In 2008, she was selected for a solo show at Miguel Abreau Gallery in New York, and a two-person show with artist Josef Strau, at Vilma Gold in London, for which she created "iamb, Chapter 12". This collection related to the use of light by Strau (actual lamps), and illustration, based on an image from Milton's Paradise Lost, illustrated by John Martin, a 19th-century English artist.[5] The show was well received by critics, including Frieze Magazine[17] and The Brooklyn Rail, noting "Quaytman makes reference in the title to both the seat of seeing (i am), and the classical meter of poetry", and "Quaytman’s sophisticated dissection of the complexities of seeing and the manifold aspects that inform perception is evident not only in individual works, but also in the relationship between specific works installed in the exhibition, and in the cumulative effect of the whole,"[16] and the New York Times "The paintings in R. H. Quaytman’s exhibition are cerebral, physically thought out and resolutely optical. They engage painting on every level in a restrained way; they also engage one another."[18]

Distracting Distance, Chapter 16

Quaytman was selected for the 2010 Whitney Biennial, an entire museum exhibit of young and lesser known artists at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. She was offered a north-facing room featuring a trapezoidal window designed by Marcel Breuer. For the show, she created "Distracting Distance, Chapter 16",[19] which reflects on the shape of the window and its reference to perspective, as well as on a famous painting in the Whitney - "A Woman in the Sun", by Edward Hopper, painted in 1961, the year of her birth.[5] Photos of the entire room were published by Contemporary Art Daily.[20]

Later in 2010, for the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, she created a retrospective exhibition "Spine, Chapter 20", of new pieces. Unlike all previous Chapters, this exhibit did not incorporate the specifics of the venue, instead reflecting upon all of her work to date. Together the Chapters form a figurative book – an overarching structure for all the paintings.[21] "The installation itself has a 'spine': an 80-foot wall extending from one corner of the room, on which most of the roughly 30 paintings are hung, creating a sense of space — even emptiness, if you turn your attention toward the walls where paintings are customarily hung in the Neuberger." according to the New York Times critic Martha Schwendener. Pieces in this chapter pull elements from all her previous chapters, such as "Distracting Distance / Hardy", in which a nude woman stands in front of the Marcel Breuer window at the Whitney.[22] "Spine, Chapter 20" also provided the final chapter of an impressive physical book - the retrospective she published in 2011, Spine, with 380 color illustrations.

In 2011, her painting was on the cover of Artforum magazine, with an essay by Paul Galvez describing her international "triumvirate of installations" in the past three years.[23]

Beginning in 2008, and accelerating in 2010, many contemporary art museums have acquired her paintings:


  • Allegorical decoys (2008)[30]
    • Published by MER Paper Kunsthalle, on the occasion of the exhibition "From One O to the Other” at the Orchard, NY, 47 pp, 2008. ISBN 978-90-769-7954-0
  • Spine (2011)[31]
    • Published by Sternberg Press, Kunsthalle Basel and Sequence, 15.24 x 24.45 cm, 416 pp, 380 color ill., hardcover with dust jacket[32]
  • Dalet (ך), Chapter 24 (2012)[33]
    • Published by Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach, 21 x 16.5 x 2.5 cm, boxed set of 61 color cards


  • Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York (1998)[34]
  • China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles, CA Revolution, A Gallery Project, Ferndale, MI (1999)
  • Optima, Chapter 3, Momenta Art, Brooklyn (2004)
  • Lodz Biennial, Lodz, Poland (2004)
  • The Sun, Chapter 1, Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York (2004)
  • Galerie Edward Mitterrand, Geneva, Switzerland (2004)
  • iamb,Chapter 12, Vilma Gold Gallery, London (2008)
  • imb,Chapter 12, Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York (2008)[35]
  • Momentum 15: Exhibition Guide, Chapter 15, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2009) [36]
  • Constructivismes, curated by Olivier Renaud-Clément, Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels (2009)
  • New Work: R. H. Quaytman (2010), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art[37]
  • Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010)[38]
  • The Renaissance Society Gallery, at The University of Chicago - Passing Through The Opposite of What It Approaches, Chapter 25 - Exhibition Page at Renaissance Society




  1. ^ "Guggenheim Museum Website, Nov 28, 2012 - Conversation with Contemporary Artist R.H. Quaytman". 
  2. ^ a b "New York Times, April 15, 2002 - Harvey Quaytman Obituary". 
  3. ^ "Brooklyn Rail April 2005 - Harvey Quaytman, by Michael Brennan". 
  4. ^ "Boston Globe, Nov 15, 2009 - Signs and Sensibility, by Cate McQuaid". 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Art in America Magazine, June 2010 - R.H. Quaytman, by Steel Stillman". 
  6. ^ "Clark County Nevada Recorder's Office Website". 
  7. ^ "New York Times, July 8, 2004 - HOUSE PROUD; Built Just as the Sculptor Dreamed It, by Claudia Steinberg". 
  8. ^ a b "Huffington Post, May 1, 2012 - Sharing the Stories of LGBT Youth by Diana Scholl". 
  9. ^ Jeff Preiss Wikipedia Article
  10. ^ "Huffington Post Isaac self identifies as Isaac Preiss". 
  11. ^ "Howe Quaytman scheduling appearance with Isaac at gaycenter.org meeting". 
  12. ^ Susan Howe Wikipedia Article
  13. ^ "Website of Orchard". 
  14. ^ "Bard College Website - Bio of Rebecca Quaytman". 
  15. ^ "CV of R.H. Quaytman at Miguel Abreu Gallery" (PDF). 
  16. ^ a b "The Brooklyn Rail, February 2009 - R H Quaytman Chapter 12: iamb, by Joan Waltemath". 
  17. ^ a b c "Frieze Magazine, Jan 20, 2009 - R.H. Quaytman, by David Lewis". 
  18. ^ "New York Times, January 22, 2009 - Art in Review, by Roberta Smith". 
  19. ^ "Whitney Museum - R.H. Quaytman". 
  20. ^ "Contemporary Art Daily, March 30, 2010 - Whitney Biennial: R. H. Quaytman". 
  21. ^ "Neuberger Museum of Art, Dec 1, 2010 - Website for R. H. QUAYTMAN: SPINE, CHAPTER 20". 
  22. ^ "New York Times, December 17, 2010 - Idiosyncratic Imagery, by Martha Schwendener". 
  23. ^ "Art Forum, September 2011 - Tabula Rasa, Paul Galvez On the Art of R. H. Quaytman". 
  24. ^ http://whitney.org/Search?query=Quaytman
  25. ^ http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2010/01/21/r-h-quaytman-s-storage-rack-an-archive-of-images-and-associations
  26. ^ http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-list/artist/q/?search=R.%20H.%20Quaytman
  27. ^ http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artists/102940/artwork
  28. ^ http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/r-h-quaytman-15967
  29. ^ http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/rh_quaytman.htm?section_name=paint_artist
  30. ^ "WorldCat Reference for Allegorical details, by R. H. Quaytman". 
  31. ^ The Book Forever: An Articulation of R.H. Quaytman's Spine | The American Shot
  32. ^ "WorldCat Reference for Spine, by R.H. Quaytman, ISBN 978-1-934105-38-2". 
  33. ^ "WorldCat Reference for Chapter 24, by R.H. Quaytman, ISBN 978-3-924039-59-2". 
  34. ^ Vilma Gold
  35. ^ Frieze Magazine | Shows | R.H. Quaytman
  36. ^ ICA | The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston | Momentum 15: R.H. Quaytman
  37. ^ SFMOMA | Exhibitions + Events | Calendar | New Work: R. H. Quaytman
  38. ^ Whitney Museum of American Art: R.H. Quaytman