Holt Quentel

Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands

Aspen Art Museum

November 15 to January 19 (Quentel) and to February 2 (Trapping Lions)

  • Reception: Thursday, December 19, 2013
  • Gallery conversation about Quentel’s work: Thursday January 16, 2014 at 6pm, featuring the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Associate Professor, art writer, and curator Terry R. Myers
Holt Quantal - White Plastic Side Chair Caster Base, Eames for Herman Miller/Foam with Duct Tape - 1990
Orange Plastic Armchair Tube Steel Base, Eames for Herman Miller/Grateful Dead Decal - 1989
Images courtesy of the artist

Holt Quentel (b. 1961) achieved recognition in the late 1980s for her paintings made from distressed tarpaulins stenciled with letters and symbols. At Stux Gallery in New York in 1990, Quentel presented an exhibition of modified side chairs designed by Charles Eames and mass-produced by Herman Miller, which she embellished with kitschy fabric coverings, Grateful Dead stickers, and other decals. Falling somewhere between the readymade and found object assemblage, Quentel’s sculptures personalized these highly uniform icons of modern design, touching on what she described as “the contradictions inherent in the utopian desire to create a universal commodity” and ironically addressing the social implications of the modernist aesthetic. Shortly after this exhibition, Quentel absented herself from the art world.

Despite the mystery surrounding her self-imposed exile, Quentel and her works have maintained a vital, if underground, presence. Now, twenty-three years later, the Aspen Art Museum brings these objects back together for the artist’s first solo museum presentation, which features seventeen distinct works incorporating Quentel’s altered Eames-designed chairs, and reopens this little-known body of work to new discourse and new evaluation.

Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands: Nine-artist exhibition highlights narrative complexity, ambiguity and disjunction in contemporary art

Curated by Jacob Proctor

Borrowing its title from Alfred Hitchcock’s explanation of the MacGuffin—the element in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion usually despite its lack of intrinsic importance—Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands highlights questions of narrative complexity, disjunction, and ambiguity in recent art. Whether presenting fictionalized versions of actual events, archival documentation of an unverifiable or even wholly invented past, or musing on the aesthetics of the murder mystery, the works in the exhibition often blur the line between fiction and reality. Some weave fragmentary tales around elusive or even entirely absent centers. In other cases, arrangements of objects or images become points of departure for open-ended stories that unfold only in the mind of the viewer. Such works often prompt us to become something of a detective, only to discover that narrative itself can be a kind of MacGuffin—important not so much for the story it tells as for the formal and conceptual moves that its structure makes possible.

Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands features: Mac Adams, Matthew Brannon, Victor Burgin, Katarina Burin, Gerard Byrne, Alejandro Cesarco, Saskia Olde Wolbers, John Smith, and Kerry Tribe 

Aspen Art Museum
590 North Mill Street
Aspen, CO 81611