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Nathaniel Mary Quinn: This is Life

December 1, 2018 – March 3, 2019


Nathaniel Mary Quinn: This is Life will be on view in MMoCA’s State Street Gallery from December 1, 2018 through March 3, 2019. The exhibition features seventeen of the artist’s mixed-media works on paper, created from 2014 to 2018. During this crucial four year period Quinn developed and refined the collage-like technique now synonymous with his name.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn: This is Life Catalogue

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Nathaniel Mary Quinn

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Quinn’s portraits initially appear to be pieced together from newspaper and magazine clippings. The artist, however, renders everything by hand. Using black charcoal and soft pastel over gouache—with careful interjections of oil paint, paint stick, and oil pastel—he masterfully manipulates his various mediums to create unconventional depictions of individuals from his past. Rather than replicating a physical likeness, Quinn’s abstracted compositions express psychological dimensions of identity.

Mirroring his understanding that an individual’s sense of self is constructed from a multitude of influences, memories, and experiences, Quinn references disparate sources of imagery—from comic books to Vermeer—to compose each artwork.

Preferring complexity and ambiguity overmimetic, or “truthful”, renderings of appearance, Quinn’s portraits actually reflect a more accurate truth about the human condition. Quinn spoke to this in a recent interview, stating; “It’s important as a people to embrace who we are and embrace our differences. It’s in our difference that we can see the similarities we share, which is that we are all complex. We are all beautiful and grotesque, we are all broken in some way, and in the midst of being broken we find ways to embrace our brokenness and carry on life. But we are all like this. Happiness, grief, joy … this is life.”

Giving image to the universal messiness of humanness, Quinn opens an important space to consider alternative ways of imagining, representing, and understanding ourselves and the world around us.

About the Artist

Nathanial Mary Quinn was born in Chicago and is currently based in Brooklyn. He earned his MFA at New York University in 2002. His work has been shown nationally and internationally in solo exhibitions at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Salon 94, New York; M+B Gallery, Los Angeles; Half Gallery, New York; Pace Gallery, London; Luce Gallery, Torino, Italy; the Museum of Contemporary and African Diasporan Art, Brooklyn, among others. Upcoming group exhibitions include The Drawing Center, New York; Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston; and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.  His work can be found in public collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Sheldon Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Exhibition Sponsors

Generous funding, to date, for Nathaniel Mary Quinn has been provided by Holly Cremer Berkenstadt; Mary Ellyn and Joe Sensenbrenner; Sara Guyer and Scott Straus; Art & Sons; Betty Harris Custer and J. Corkey Custer; Dynee and Barney Sheafor; Deirdre Garton; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.