Harvey Quaytman on Paintings and Social Justice

'Untitled' (1985) by Quaytman. (Courtesy McKee Gallery)

‘Untitled’ (1985) by Quaytman. (Courtesy McKee Gallery)

Great news. Phaidon has just published a new monograph for the late, great New York artist Harvey Quaytman (1937–2002), and it is a excellent.

Art historian Dore Ashton provides an illuminating introduction to the work of the hard-edge painter, which includes warm remembrances of the friendship that they shared for decades. There’s also a discussion from 1987 between the artist and Kimmo Sarje, an artist, curator and philosopher of aesthetics, in which Quaytman discusses the shifts in his thinking about his work over the years. It includes a super inspiring bit about the value of art, which follows below.

Sarje: …How do you see the relation of your paintings to social values and criticism?

Quaytman: I’m interested in making paintings with a one hundred percent guarantee of moral integrity, which I think is the only contribution a painter can make to social justice. I mean, if you are able to concentrate everything you believe into your work, then it’s ethically and socially valuable. … The sense of integrity and avoidance of easy answers—these kind of paintings can be like moral sign posts in society…the moral is the result of the aesthetics. When the aesthetic decisions are made with absolute integrity, then I hope they also have a moral resonance.

Quaytman also explains that, like Mondrian, he’s not a fan of green in art, but he doesn’t mind it in nature. Did I mention this thing is filled with illustrations, spanning almost 50 years of his career? Well worth picking up.

In related news, McKee Gallery has a Quaytman show up through March 22.