Within her ongoing series clustered into “chapters,” the book of R. H. Quaytman’s lifelong practice now has a detour into Brazil. “O Tópico, Chapter 27,” the artist’s first show at the Gladstone Gallery in New York, is the premiere of a baroque, large-scale installation before it settles into its site of permanent display at Inhotim, the 5,000-acre contemporary art complex and botanical garden secluded away in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Southeast Brazil.
In her oeuvre, each chapter is centered in its site of exhibition. Previously she has utilized classic principles of aesthetics to design the overarching structures that house her plywood panels overlaid with silkscreens of Polaroid portraits, all colored in with a pastel palette. Given the intricacy of her work, the artist has learned to contextualize her own practice, literally and historically. The architecture of Orchard, the artist-run gallery she co-founded and exhibited at in the mid-2000s, was based on the Golden Triangle. She became best known for Chapter 16,her contribution to the 2010 Whitney Biennial: Quaytman had fellow artist K8 Hardy stand before the Whitney Building’s famed trapezoidal window, mimicking the pose of the figure in the museum’s signature painting, Edward Hopper’s 1961 A Woman in the Sun.
”O Tópico,” then, is an exotic aesthetic departure from her previous twenty-six chapters. The exhibition is installed in a massive white Golden Spiral that fills the cavernous gallery space, a structure designed by her frequent collaborator, architect Solveig Fernlund. Inside, the artist has traded her previous series of low-grade radiance and reticence for the bold chromatic range of lush Brazil: the paintings nested inside are shaped by curves that mimic the geometry of the Fibonacci spiral, saturated in brash tarred black, rich cyan and pineapple-yellow gesso, layered in material entirely new to the artist — encaustic and polyurethane. The graphic elements of every detail of the installation carve “O Tópico”into sharp relief, an invigorating turn in her book of enigmatic atmosphere and smoke.