Eileen Quinlan

Dawn Goes Down

September 10 — November 7, 2020
88 Eldridge Street



Miguel Abreu Gallery is pleased to announce the opening, on Thursday, September 10th, of Eileen Quinlan’s Dawn Goes Down, her sixth one-person exhibition at the gallery. The show will be held at 88 Eldridge Street, while Displacements and Dead Trees, her concurrent two-person exhibition with Cheyney Thompson will be on view at our 36 Orchard Street location.

A black and white, documentary photograph of a piece of driftwood opens the exhibition. This commanding, potent image irresistibly draws the viewer into its intricate, knotty details; and as the eye travels the surface of the large fiber paper print, the iconographic and material modulations of the picture gradually reveal themselves. In the upper left area, an energetic swirl of lines interrupts the general flow of the composition and produces an instance of concrete poetry, a moment of photo-chemistry gone awry.

As the viewer turns into the first gallery, a sudden shift in image regime confronts the eye. Colorful, large-scale multi-panel works comprised of nervous streaks of ambiguous, yet gorgeous abstraction bring to mind painterly gestures and the capture of unconstrained movement. The opposition between analogue and digital imagery that structures Quinlan’s exhibition has been set up, and the wide range of her photographic practice is on immediate display. On the one side there seems to be insistence on a prolonged act of seeing and deciphering, an invitation to sustained examination, while on the other an air of disengagement and laissez-faire chance effects dominates perception.

In the catalogue essay accompanying his group exhibition Objects Recognized in Flashes, recently on view at Mumok in Vienna, curator Matthias Michalka asks “what is the status of our uses of and relationships with analogue and digital images? How do we view the relations between material and immateriality, body, screen, and photographic surface?” In this groundbreaking show on the current state of photography that brings together the work of Michele Abeles, Annette Kelm, Josephine Pryde, and Eileen Quinlan, Michalka focuses on approaches to the “surfaces of photographs, products, and bodies in a greatly digitalized society.” The exhibition aims “at a captivating, contradictory confrontation with the ‘distribution of the sensible’ (Jacques Rancière) in our mediatized consumer culture.” Quinlan’s work included in Dawn Goes Down and elsewhere is situated at the forefront of this exploration.

A conversation about the artist with her long established black and white master printer, Sam Merians, points to the fact that Quinlan “is among a very, very small group who manipulate the negative in the photographic work cycle. Of that very small group, almost no one has done so for adequate time or with adequate affection to create a discernable language. While it is true that the printmaking is historically quite beautiful (see Aaron Rose or Man Ray) it is never, never, at this scale.” Quinlan’s interest in acknowledging and working with the various available materials and techniques of the photographic have lately moved to engaging the expressive potential of a flatbed scanner, this camera less instrument for the digital capture and transmutation of heterogeneous surfaces and subject matter. As opposed to the quasi-instantaneous shutter speed of the traditional camera, the scanner head is a decidedly time-based recording device, which slowly and perhaps more ominously traverses the given rectangular field of the flatbed’s glass plate. Quinlan intervenes in this regulated movement by agitating and shuffling around her materials during the time of capture, thus unleashing disturbances and allowing inherent chance effects to occur. Contemplating the complexities of the apparatus and the piece of equipment she is thinking of using, the desire to first immerse herself in its inner workings to understand it, are notable features of Quinlan’s subtle and inventive balancing acts.


Eileen Quinlan (b. 1972, Boston) earned her MFA from Columbia University in 2005, and had her first solo museum exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 2009. Her first survey show, Wait For It at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, was held in 2019. Quinlan’s work was recently included in Objects Recognized in Flashes, a major group exhibition curated by Matthias Michalka at MUMOK, Vienna, alongside Michele Abeles, Annette Kelm, and Josephine Pryde (2019), Passer-by at Lafayette Anticipations, Paris (2019), Picture Industry: A Provisional History of the Technical Image, 1844–2018 at the LUMA Foundation in Arles (2018), VIVA ARTE VIVA, the 57th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, curated by Christine Macel (2017), and Always starts with an encounter: Wols/Eileen Quinlan, produced by Radio Athènes and curated by Helena Papadopoulos at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens (2016). Previously, Quinlan participated in Image Support at the Bergen Kunsthall, What Is a Photograph? at the International Center for Photography, New York, and New Photography 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art, along with group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum, White Columns, the White Cube Bermondsey, the Langen Foundation, Mai 36, Marian Goodman Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Paula Cooper Gallery, among others. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, CCS Bard Hessel Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Hammer Museum, Pinault Collection, Aïshti Foundation, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston, Ackland Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, V–A–C Foundation, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, and the Brooklyn Museum. Quinlan’s fifth solo exhibition at Miguel Abreu Gallery, Too Much, was on view in the fall of 2018, coinciding with the release of her first monograph, Good Enough, published by Osmos Books. Always Starts with an Encounter: Wols—Eileen Quinlan, was published by Radio Athènes and Sequence Press in the fall of 2019.

Quinlan’s work is also currently included in Artist’s Choice: Amy Sillman—The Shape of Shape at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.