Critics’ Picks

View of “Holt Quentel,” 2013–14.


Holt Quentel

Aspen Art Museum
637 East Hyman
November 15–January 19

In 1990, the young artist Holt Quentel exhibited a group of twenty-one Herman Miller-produced Eames chairs, variously covered in Grateful Dead stickers, shrink-wrapped in plastic, and overlaid in yellow fur at Stux Gallery in New York. For this reunion show, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the museum’s director, has gathered seventeen of the sculptures, which are now beginning to arrive at the faux weariness the artist may have intended for them at the outset. The distressed chairs line the walls of two long galleries; one baseless cradle sits stationed in the middle of the walkway.

Quentel’s most successful objects remain her most crude and disfigured. White Plastic Side Chair Caster Base, Eames for Herman Miller/Foam with Duct Tape, 1990, for instance, is composed of thick foam duct-taped to the seat of a chair. Meanwhile, Fiberglass, Eames Seat, Patina, Hardware and Wood, 1992, is altogether de-legged. These chairs create an atmosphere at once droll and deadly solemn.

In the mid-1990s, Quentel removed herself from the art world and became largely untraceable. Twenty-three years later, her ongoing absence casts her sculptures, which were read in the ’90s as a conspicuous critique of modernist aesthetics and consumerism (Vik Muniz describes her in the accompanying catalogue essay as a “post-modern superhero”), in a different light. These elegant plastic and fiberglass objects, remade as soiled and threadbare readymades, have now become surrogates for Quentel’s own missing body. Their emptiness takes on a new, palpable resonance with the artist herself nowhere to be found.