The artist’s material of choice is live fireworks, or rather the tinted smoke, made of fine particles of organic dyes, that color their familiar, ordinarily airborn explosions.
For decades, Diao has injected deeply personal, even confessional content onto the placid surfaces and into the untroubled spaces of Modernism by way of a formal vocabulary grounded in the conventions of presentation diagrams, plans, text. The new work retains its erstwhile formal elegance and restraint, but rueful humor is replaced by a seething emotional undertow stemming from the artist’s inherited memories of his family’s displacement and fragmentation at the hands of the Chinese government.
Quaytman works in a mode of painting/silkscreen hybrid, an at once middle-brow and mass-produced liminal form that is ideologically adrift between the elite and the unique in a way that recalls Warhol. The show quietly crackles with ideas about production; perception and legibility; the nature of the “image;” and the play between painterly and photographic values.
The artist softens his vigorous brushwork using a blending brush, a staple of the realist painter’s tool kit, relying too heavily on an admixture of white to sidestep the chromatic muddiness that would otherwise ensue. In places this unexpected technique imparts a smeary appearance, while elsewhere the forms are so hairy-looking you want to take a big comb to them.