R. H. Quaytman, To the German Language, 2011 (25 min.), video lecture in collaboration with Jeff Preiss

I do have vision and vision has the uncanny ability to talk back.


[The above] video lecture is comprised entirely of the voices and opinions of white males with the exception of some tearful excerpts from Andrea Fraser’s powerful lecture delivered on Fred Sandback as part of this same [Dia Artists on Artists] series in 2004. Dia’s pounding masculine ideology seemed to demand my silence and I complied by not using the first person. But if I don’t have a voice other than intermittent “ah”, “yeh” and “you’re right.” – I do have vision and vision has the uncanny ability to talk back. This is why film rather than lecturing, seemed the best vehicle to converse with my subject.

To the German Language


The poem begins to mirror itself.
        The identity of the poet gets more obvious.
Why can’t we sing songs like nightingales? Because we’re not
        Nightingales and can never become them. The poet has an
        arid parch of his reality and the others.
Things desert him. I thought of you as a butterfly tonight with
        clipped wings.


R. H. Quaytman, The Sun Does Not Move, Chapter 35, Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, November 11, 2019 – February 23, 2020

What happens when the source of what is depicted disappears
and is replaced by a painting?

If I ignored the urge to explain everything what would I say? ‘The Sun Does Not Move’ might be something these paintings would say if they had speech bubbles. Those words, when I read them somewhere else expressed what I felt painting them this year. Not only because of a political swing to something that I innocently hoped over but also because it reflects these paintings’ beginnings in The Sun, Chapter 1. I needed to orient myself to begin the book and fate put me down here in 1999 at the moment of my rock bottom desperation about what to do as a painter. This small industrial Polish town—its name Lodz, scarred, scratched and nothing like it sounds—and its artists.


The Sun Does Not Move, Chapter 35, 2019, oil, silkscreen ink, gesso on wood, 20 x 32 3/8 x 3/4 in. Amongst Quaytman’s exhibitions that have been presented so far, the one at Muzeum Sztuki represents a remarkable conceptual retrospective. Previously, similar label could be given only to the project titled Spine embracing chapters from 1 to 20 organised at Kunsthalle Basel and Neuberger Museum of Art in 2011 and covering chapters from 1 to 20. The exhibition at Muzeum Sztuki was intended as an outcome of re-read chapters from 21 to 34. It is not a mechanical presentation of these chapters but a new story overarching them.


This chapter, like its title suggests, attempts to start again from the beginning, and this beginning happened as a direct result of my taking Katarzyna Kobro’s ideas about sculpture, space, and time and applying them as a painting model. It was through a direct engagement with one work of art, “Spatial Composition No. 2”, made in 1928, that inspired numerous paintings before the chapters began, but also inspired the basic geometric foundation of the chapter structure. Additionally, I became equally interested in Wladyslaw Strzeminski afterwards, and based my use of op-art on his ideas of opticality and the afterimage. The basic ideas that came out of Kobro and Strzeminski was the idea that painting could be seen just as equally through a sideways glance as the straight forward one, this, as ultimately attention is distracted and that might be all the paintings would get.

Quaytman’s Polaroid of Kobro’s Spatial Composition 2

The work of plastic art does not express anything.


Spatial Composition No. 2 has become a kind of “prototype” for Quaytman, and her experiments with the spatiality of painting and images in general. The exhibition at the Muzeum Sztuki intended to explore this aspect of her practice, while focusing on the last eight years of her work. At the same time, it provided a retrospective insight into some important foundations of her art.

R. H. Quaytman discusses Kobro’s Spatial Composition 1

Did early abstraction inadvertently indoctrinate us into modes of thinking and perceiving that now prevent the revolutionary experience they first provided?

Is it possible to look and understand this evacuation of the subject and the temporal as if it were an archaic written language, the sound of which has been lost or perhaps was never even meant to be spoken?

READ MORE: R. H. Quaytman’s essay for October, Issue 143, Winter 2013

The Sun, Chapter 1 [Book 1, Fear A], [Lodz train station], 2001, casein, silkscreen ink, gesso on wood, 3 panels, each: 20 x 32 3/8 x 3/4 inches (51 x 82.2 x 2 cm)


Excerpt from Allegorical Decoys, R.H. Quaytman, Gent: MER. Paper Kunsthalle, 2008, pp. 19-26.

I had the opportunity to visit Russia in 1989, when I was a student at the Institute des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastiques, in Paris, and in 1990 I traveled to Poland. In these countries, the ghosts of history and the sense of the future were dramatically different than in the West. It was as if time stood still or was elongated in these post- Soviet countries. Each day was like walking in a de Chirico painting. Every street you walked down offered a memory you never had, yet understood; the feeling of a future that was supposed to happen, but never moved forward, and could only remain the same as when it ceased in 1945. Dreamlike and slow, perhaps this was a living memory of what time was like before late capitalism. Experiencing this landscape untouched by capitalism was seminal. It forced me to see my personal environment from a nonessentialist viewpoint and to understand it as both the fragile and violent construction that it is.

READ MORE: R. H. Quaytman, Allegorical Decoys (full text)

חקק, Chapter 29,, 2015, oil, silkscreen ink, gesso on wood, 37 1/16 x 37 1/16 x 1 1/4 in.

To find the words for what one has before one’s eyes—how difficult that can be. But once they come they batter with tiny hammers against reality, until they have pressed a picture from it as from a copper plate.


Paul Klee and I both pay close attention to what happens at the edge of an image or painting because of an urge to emphasize the material support as distinct from what is depicted on its surface. We wish our work to resemble books in differing degrees. Klee, who was an accomplished printmaker, had doubts about the form, which was being forcefully deployed as political propaganda in Germany at the time. Besides, he believed the strength of an artwork depended to a large degree on its bounded singularity. For the Angelus Novus, Klee used an oil transfer technique he developed as a means to transfer rather than reproduce his original drawing, which he was averse to selling. This is important because it means that the form the angel takes was drawn before its double—the oil transfer—was glued onto an old copper plate engraving.

READ MORE: חקק, Chapter 29 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Chapter 29 at Miguel Abreu Gallery

Chapter 29 at documenta 14

Fernando Zalamea, slides from Critique / Poetics, Walter Benjamin, and Higher Mathematics, Seminar for Fred Moten’s Course “Black Performance: Poetics of Violence”, April 2019 (full 90 slide presentation)

In this paragraph, roman numerals between parentheses (xy) refer to page xy of the Catalog of the Tel Aviv show (R.H. Quaytman, Chapter 29, Tel Aviv Museum of Art: 2015). Many marginal and deep themes appear in Chapter 29. First, (A) opening multidimensional vision and thinking addresses the shortcomings of narrow views and limited perspectives, and helps to escape platitudes: “we wish our work to resemble books in differing degrees” (51), “our images circle around words, behaving a little like hieroglyphs floating in unfurled pictorial space” (52), “he/she (zhe) demurely gazes askance into the world distance” (53), “was the Angelus paying homage to or defacing what it obscured?” (55). Second, (B) unfolding space and time addresses planar horizons and punctual time, and fosters germs of tolerance and awareness: “pay close attention to what happens at the edge of an image” (51), “scroll fluttering in the wind” (53), “navigate around the drama of the vacated space of the blank canvas” (57), “each individual painting becomes something else because of its neighbor (…) this is the hieroglyphic, the lateral way of looking at my work” (57). Third, (C) navigating plasticity and continuity addresses rigid and separated contextualizations, and opens a path to connect the many layers and screens of the World: “enter the waves (…) images circle around words” (52), “a topological geography connected to art history is emerging” (60), “negate with an upside down sunrise sparkling on a cyan sky and hang it on a diagonal” (60), “images survive the growing pile of debris and destruction in front of the Angelus Novus” (61). From margins to the whole, processes (A)-(C) help the wanderers of Quaytman’s installations to look beyond, never quite happy to accept first impressions, always wondering for the invisible patterns hidden behind art and life.

READ MORE: Fernando Zalamea, A Marginal Note on Chapter 29’s “Quaytman Margin”

חקק, Chapter 29, 2015, oil, silkscreen ink, gesso on two wood panels, wood shelf
24 3/4 x 24 3/4 x 3/4 in. and 12 3/8 x 12 3/8 x 3/4 in.

חקק, Chapter 29

R. H. Quaytman’s חקק, Chapter 29 takes as its starting point the artist’s solo exhibition of the same title at the Tel Aviv Museum, and evolves into a chronicle of Quaytman’s obsessive investigation of an undetected and elusive image that she discovered behind the Angelus Novus, Paul Klee’s famous 1920 monoprint. Quaytman’s research, and eventual momentous identification of the image, are traced through a personal essay by the artist herself, along with extensive analytical commentaries by Tate curator Mark Godfrey, and Paul Klee scholar Annie Bourneuf, accompanied by full-page color photographic reproductions across two iterations of חקק, Chapter 29, from the original Tel Aviv Museum and later Miguel Abreu Gallery Orchard Street exhibitions.

The Sun Does Not Move, Chapter 35
, Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, November 11, 2019 – February 23, 2020

The Sun Does Not Move, Chapter 35, 2019, oil, silkscreen ink, gesso on wood, 32 3/8 x 52 3/8 x 1 in.

The Persian Women (1597/1599) by Otto van Veen depicts an anecdote in Plutarch’s Bravery of Women in which the women resort to a gesture of self-exposure upon discovering that their men are losing the battle for the city. Trying to return to their citadel, the defeated soldiers encounter all the women of their homes, who expose their genitals while shouting “Whither are you rushing so fast, you biggest cowards in the whole world? Surely you cannot, in your flight, slink in here whence you came forth.” Shocked by this sight and mortified by these words the soldiers are forced to return to battle to vanquish the enemy.

An Evening, Chapter 32, at the Secession, Vienna


R. H. Quaytman, Ode to Rosalind Krauss, multimedia artist talk, Harvard, 2012