The Quarters Project
Art in Four Parts
Samm Cohen and Joseph A. W. Quintela are an artist couple who click, clear and loud. At least, so says the evidence in their current show, “The Quarters Project,” at the Chashama 461 Gallery in Harlem. The show consists of about a score of works, each completed by Cohen and Quintela in tandem. Most are paintings of varying size, working down to finely rendered miniatures, with a mix of several sculptures including one hanging mobile. Aside from the usual paint and charcoal, the paintings are filled in with photographs and text, not to mention Karo syrup, yeast, and sugar. Additionally, in the mix, for both paintings and sculptures are found materials in the form of wire, threaded yarn, painted beads, and working Christmas lights. The surfaces, beside the expected canvas and paper, include mirrored glass and old books. Thrown in, is an initialed Chinese takeout menu, a memento of a gustatory, real world interruption of their artmaking, that, of course, finishes the conceptual loop that becomes, itself, a work of art. The depictions range from the attenuatedly figurative to the bulbously, organically abstract, and every piece is forthrightly distinctive.
The premise behind their project is theoretically simple. Divide each work into four quadrants, hence the ”quarters” in the show’s title, and then have at your accordingly marked territory, see what the four sides have to say to each other and then go for a definitive melding of the parts by the home stretch. The perhaps inevitable incursions of one artist onto another’s turf, along with whatever creative differences come up, are worked out amicably and aptly. The visible product, as viewed in work after work, proves that their strategy has succeeded, brilliantly, even breathtakingly. Every piece, even as it exhibits some catchy, internal variation that would just as well emanate from two hands as as it would from four, coheres expertly, agiley and imaginatively, nimbly preempting any obtrusive clues about its preplanned origins. If you didn’t know coming in that the show was the work of two artists and not one, you would never guess that any of it was a collaboration, much less one between people who style themselves as highly different, individual artists. At least, we confess, we wouldn’t. We also detect an objective enactment through artistic means of the everyday dynamics of a couple bonded in an intimate, personal relationship. One recurring motif is faces, or more precisely masks, ranging from the neatly etched to the swimmier. We read that as a partial self-commentary on the couple’s working blueprint for their series, riffing on its ritual partnered arbitrariness, as a hair-of-the-dog gambit at getting at a result that is as legibly real as a harmonized duality can make it. Cohen and Quintela make it look easy, and it’s a mark of their accomplishment to know that it didn’t necessarily have to be.
The show ends September 5th, with a closing party on September 3rd from 7 to 10 PM. Chashama Gallery, 461 W. 126 St. 212-391-8151. chashama.org
(Fortune Swerves: Rising, Spills. ink, acrylic, latex, adhesive on softcover books)
(Rammer Martinez and Samm Cohen making live art at the performance at The Quarters Project at Chashama)
(Rammer Martinez, Samm Cohen, Joseph A W Quintela doing live art in the Chashama Gallery during the poetry performance)
Please visit www.theQuartersProject.com for more information.