Eileen Quinlan

The Waves

March 15 — May 7, 2023
88 Eldridge Street



Miguel Abreu Gallery is pleased to announce the opening, on Wednesday, March 15th, of Eileen Quinlan’s The Waves, her seventh one-person exhibition at the gallery. The show will be held at our 88 Eldridge Street location.

Between the inflow of water along a shoreline and its recession out to sea, there is a sequence of moments—the wave—when water accumulates a cyclical motion that both turns in on itself while out, creating, if briefly, a vertiginous zone of suspense. It is a form of passage in which the ocean’s surface undergoes a process of undoing its own frame. The wave breaks and transforms. What’s witnessed in this magnificent, recurrent, quotidian event registers the influence of a whole spectrum of unperceived forces: the agitating touch of the wind’s path, geothermal fluctuations, subterranean stress and flex, the lunar pull. As such, the wave images what the eye can’t see. Across eighteen new photographic works, Eileen Quinlan invites the unfolding of an artwork much in the same way that a wave gathers, composes, and distributes the matter of an entire, ever-changing terrain.

The Waves expands three continuous series in Quinlan’s practice—her abstract, self-exposed works of decaying analog film; her nude self-portraits; and her multichromatic digital scanner works—while introducing new screen-reflected room interiors and dramatic seascapes. For this show, the photographs share a standard print size and consistent output process. Whereas, in previous exhibitions, the mirror served as a punctuating installation device, for The Waves Quinlan deploys it as a ground for UV-printed photographs. A hovering, spectral while immanent quality emerges as shifting light and shadow interplay beneath the print surface, discerning a transient and reflective space. Not only floating, the image also floods its frame: a sensual yet errant seepage erodes the artwork’s presumed confines. Diffusely marked, the viewer in motion is imprinted on the photographs through a cloudlike projection of shadows. The photographs adumbrate the body, intensifying and dulling perception in relation to vantage, submerging spectator within image. At the same time, the artist’s body as image conducer is more present than ever, submitted to a range of transformations, inverting and solarizing flesh. This proximity to the artist’s body disclosed, made vulnerable, in an array of unsettled conditions subtly indexes the personal and emotive.

Quinlan’s practice has always centered the intimacy of contact between human body and photographic procedures’ reactive compounds—be it the doubled (mirrored) lens of the pressed-against glass wall in her nudes or her hand-manipulation of chemical developer—but The Waves proposes the photographic object as a mutable and ongoing site of encounter. The image becomes a conduit for an elemental transference between bodies. Oceanic and immersive, the photograph here becomes an environment, a conjured climate of change and transfiguration. What she achieves is not simply a collapse of modernist photography’s figurative bounds, the mirror and the window, but an ecstatic rendition: photography experienced as a confluence of bodies (human, environmental, and otherwise) in moments of shared drift.


Eileen Quinlan (b. 1972, Boston) earned her MFA from Columbia University in 2005, and had a solo 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. In the fall of 2020, Quinlan’s sixth solo exhibition at Miguel Abreu Gallery, Dawn Goes Down, was presented concurrently with Displacements and Dead Trees, a two-person exhibition with Cheyney Thompson. Quinlan’s work was included in Artist’s Choice: Amy Sillman—The Shape of Shape, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2020), 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, and in other group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum, White Columns, White Cube Bermondsey, the Langen Foundation, Mai 36, Marian Goodman Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Paula Cooper Gallery, among others.

Quinlan’s 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, Los Angeles, Pinault Collection, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston, Ackland Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, V–A–C Foundation, Moscow, mumok, Vienna, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, FRAC Normandie Rouen, Brooklyn Museum, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

The artist’s first monograph, Good Enough, was published by Osmos Books in 2018, while Always Starts with an Encounter: Wols—Eileen Quinlan, was published by Radio Athènes and Sequence Press in 2019.