Somewhere between the complex compositions of Cubism and Francis Bacon’s distorted imagery lies Nathaniel Mary Quinn’s distinct approach to portraiture. On view at M+B gallery, Quinn’s newest series looks to music as narrator. Aptly titled “Soundtrack,” the exhibition couples each multimedia work with a song that best underscores the artist’s nuanced mode of expression through disfigured portraiture. Fueled by personal experiences and universal emotions, Quinn’s semi-abstracted figures result in a signature aesthetic that hovers between painting and collage.
Quinn’s deft handling of materials—predominantly paints and pastels—is evident in Duckworth (all works 2018). Here, Kendrick Lamar’s song pairs with Quinn’s brushstrokes and markings, which are simultaneously methodical and gestural. A painted assemblage of a man with a beak, the portrait resists an absolute interpretation by way of disfiguration. Instead, the work is layered in textures, hues, and meanings. This results in a richly fractured image that is both visually esoteric and familiar in its ability to conjure emotions.
Similarly, works like What About The Way You Love Me? and Movin’ Down The Line function as metaphorical amalgams for the human condition, both on a personal level for the artist and collectively. The former draws its name from Al Green’s Simply Beautiful. Thick, expressive sweeps of color form the fractured imagery of a young man donning glasses, a collared shirt, and a lavender bowtie. The latter pushes abstraction even further with a deconstructed figure that combines multiple planes to form remnants of a portrait. Realistic depictions of space and dimensionality are blurred, as objects—a lampshade and foliage—linger along the edges of the frame.
With abstraction often comes obscurity; regardless, Quinn’s work maintains the ability to elicit a visceral reaction to the universal truths of human experience in all of its complexities.