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. —William S. Smith
Pictured: Harvey Quaytman: Vital Attractions, 1990, acrylic and crushed glass on canvas, 60 inches square. Courtesy Van Doren Waxter, New York.
This survey of major abstract paintings and drawings by New York artist Harvey Quaytman (1937-2002) underscores the consistently refined character of his work throughout several decades. Outstanding here are the spare geometric compositions, such as Spector (1990), whose predominate white cruciform shape is highlighted with finely ground glass. Several shaped canvases are equally memorable, including a 7-foot-high untitled work from 1970, with a rich surface impasto of pale purple that seems to comingle minimalist tenets with those of the Color Field movement of the period. Unjustifiably under-known, the NewYork artist is presented in this show as an historical figure, a unique synthesizer of radical trends in late 20th century abstract painting.