San Francisco

Juan Carlos Quintana: Retrospectives at Jack Fischer Gallery

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Juan Carlos Quintana: Retrospectives at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco. Author Maria Porges quotes the artist at the end of the review: “And who is to say what is failure and what is success? As an artist you just need to trust and listen to yourself and keep moving forward.” This article was originally published on September 16, 2015.

Juan Carlos Quintana. Reflections on Exile Part I (Entering the Forest), 2014-15; oil and acrylic on canvas; 84 x 192 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Fischer Gallery, San Francisco.

Juan Carlos Quintana. Reflections on Exile Part I (Entering the Forest), 201415; oil and acrylic on canvas; 84 x 192 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Fischer Gallery, San Francisco.

 

The elegant, perfectly paced installation of Retrospectives—just the right number of paintings and objects—evokes the hushed adoration that the title invokes. Yet many things about Juan Carlos Quintana’s beautiful yet unsettling paintings make one reconsider just what the artist might really intend. The clusters of cartoony, faintly alarming figures that people Quintana’s canvases suggest a combination of Belgian painter James Ensor’s crowd scenes, Philip Guston’s goofy hooded Klansmen, and the denizens of ’70s “Bad Painting.” Looking closely at these crowds of “barflies, wanna-be-revolutionaries, lackeys, clowns, hobos, hillbillies, zealots, opportunists, and zombies” (the artist’s description), it is clear that we, the art-world audience, are also part of this mob.

Quintana, who has described his work as a “pre-post-anti-pro revolutionary gumbo/ajiaco potpourri of image-making that navigates between narratives and abstractions,” is a veritable poster boy for cultural hybridity, having been raised by Cuban exile parents in New Orleans’ mix of African, European, and Native American cultures. The dense, palimpsest-littered surfaces of his paintings suggest the presence of these multiple voices; images added and subtracted, improvised and erased seem to be part of an affectionate, labor-intensive relationship with each canvas, renewed on a daily basis for months before final completion. Titles are sharply humorous references to political (in)correctness of all kinds. Some are about the Cold War; others—Revolutions Are Made to Liberate the Painter from the Humdrum Circumstances of the Canvas (2015), for instance—evoke Communist rhetoric, or, like Soiree for the Nouveau Riche to Show Off Their New Art Collection (2015), or Art Collectors Descending on Unsuspecting Emerging Economies (2015), make fun of the burgeoning Late Capitalism of the present-day art world.

Read the full article here.

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