GAGOSIAN ANNOUNCED its representation of Nathaniel Mary Quinn yesterday. Working with family photos and images from fashion magazines, Quinn makes composite portraits that draw on memory and explore the complex relationship between reality and perception. He lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y.

 


Nathaniel Mary Quinn’s mother died when he was a teenager. He took her first name as his middle name to honor her. He wrote in British Vogue: “Against the odds, I managed to graduate with honours. A few months before, I added ‘Mary’ to my name. My mother had never had an education, so this meant she would have her name on every diploma I received.” | Photo by Kyle Dorosz, Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 

Quinn is currently showing work in Brussels, where “Nathaniel Mary Quinn: Always Felt, Rarely Seen” is on view at Almine Rech through April 13. Earlier this year, he was featured in the three-artist show “For Opacity” at The Drawing Center in New York and will be honored at the center’s annual benefit gala April 24.

Mixing a variety of mediums, including oil paint, gouache, charcoal, oil stick, and pastels, Quinn’s work is collage-like. Rather than actually layering the broadly sourced imagery that distinguishes his works, he paints and draws recreating it in his own hand.

Describing his approach to the work, the gallery said, Quinn “employs the stream-of-consciousness tactics of Dada—as in the chimerical, mask-like collages of Hannah Höch—together with a visceral realism reminiscent of Romare Bearden, whose deft photomontages made palpable the feelings, spaces, music, and energies of Black experience during the Civil Rights era and after.” Defined by distorted facial features, his portraits also call to mind the work of Francis Bacon.

“Nathaniel Mary Quinn: This is Life” (Dec. 1, 2018-March 3, 2019), the artist’s first solo museum exhibition was on view at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Wisconsin.

“At last I had discovered a way to harness my experiences—taking disparate fragments of the world around me and transforming them into portraits of the faces I had known.” — Nathaniel Mary Quinn


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Junebug,” 2015 (black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick, acrylic silver leaf on Coventry Vellum paper, 41 x 44 inches / 104.1 x 111.8 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 

LAST AUGUST in British Vogue, Quinn gave a candid account of his background. He wrote in detail about growing up in Chicago public housing, his tragic family life, and early talent for drawing. He forged a path for himself fortified by education. He managed to get a scholarship to a rural boarding school, and then earned an undergraduate degree from Wabash College and an MFA from New York University. He supported his studio practice by teaching for a decade. In the article, Quinn explained how his composite-style, largely familial portraits emerged:

    My canvases focused on the politics of race in America—work I felt I was supposed to create as an African-American man from Chicago, rather than ones that truly resonated with me—yet, no matter how many paintings I made, I still felt empty.…

    While preparing for an exhibition at one of my students’ mother’s brownstones, I had a vision of a face — and my need to recreate it on paper was almost visceral. I understood that I had to reduce it to its key elements: eyes, nose and mouth. Trusting my intuition, I pulled fragments from different visual sources—a fashion magazine, Google images, my own photo albums—copying each piece by hand. When I stepped back from the canvas, I was stunned. It was a Frankenstein-like portrait of my brother Charles.

    At last I had discovered a way to harness my experiences—taking disparate fragments of the world around me and transforming them into portraits of the faces I had known. Visions kept coming to me—of my family and people from our old community; gang members, childhood friends and street hustlers.

For years, Ellen Gallagher was the only black artist on Gagosian’s roster of more than 80 artists. Last December, Theaster Gates joined the gallery and now Quinn is represented by the global gallery, too. Gagosian has 17 locations around the world. Scheduled for fall 2019, Quinn’s first exhibition with the gallery will be presented at its Beverly Hills location. CT

 

FIND MORE about Nathaniel Mary Quinn in British Vogue, Juxtapoz, and The New Yorker

 

BOOKSHELF
“Nathaniel Mary Quinn: This Is Life” documents the artist’s first solo museum exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Wisconsin.

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Elephant Feet,” 2016 (black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel on Coventry Vellum paper / 44 x 44 5/8 inches / 111.8 x 113.3 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Erica with the Pearl Earring,” 2015 (black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick, and silver oil pastel on Coventry Vellum paper, 25 1/2 x 25 1/2 inches / 64.8 x 64.8 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Duckworth,” 2018 (oil paint, paint stick, oil pastel and gouache on linen, 36 x 36 inches / 91.4 x 91.4 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Big Rabbit, Little Rabbit,” 2017 (black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick, acrylic silver powder on Coventry Vellum Paper, 72 x 56 inches / 182.9 x 142.2 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Charles Re-Visited,” 2015 (black charcoal, soft pastel, oil pastel, paint stick, gouache on Coventry Vellum paper, 50 x 38 inches / 127 x 96.5 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Richard,” 2014 (black charcoal, gouache, oil-pastel, oil-paint, paint Stick on Coventry Vellum paper, 38 x 50 inches / 96.5 x 127 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Ahhhhh,” 2017 (black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, acrylic gold powder on Conventry Vellum Paper, 17 3/4 x 25 1/4 inches / 45.1 x 64.1 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 


NATHANIEL MARY QUINN, “Buck Nasty: Player Haters Ball,” 2017 (black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, acrylic gold powder on Coventry Vellum Paper, 35 x 34 1/2 inches / 88.9 x 87.6 cm). | © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

 

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