Eileen Quinlan, "Smoke and Mirrors"
Thu Nov 1 2007
COURTESY MIGUEL ABREU GALLERY
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
The latest installment in Eileen Quinlan’s “Smoke and Mirrors” series reads favorably as the result of a laboratory experiment with abstraction as the control. Her trials with materials, and her use of the camera and mirrors—both traditionally considered vehicles of representation—to create abstractions underline her interest in the act of looking, rather than in idolizing her outcomes. Quinlan creates her kaleidoscopic images by using a physical setup that she then shoots with a medium-or large-format camera. The materials featured—smoke, paper towels, reflective surfaces including Mylar—are all combined and recombined throughout the works. Shards of mirrors ricochet textures and beautifully saturated color between the fractured surfaces of the installations; the resultant images are labyrinthine frames of folded perspective that bear more in common with nonobjective painting than photography. Quinlan isn’t precious with her process; the surface of the film is often degraded and scratched, as in Smoke and Mirrors #205, and the images’ aspect ratio is often blown beyond the original proportion to yield grainy images.
The way the artist plays with the elements commonly used to judge the quality of a representational photograph allows us to see the technical process as the end, not merely the means. In Red Goya, a diptych rife with Harlequinesque red and green diamond forms, Quinlan has mounted identical images in two different sizes beside each other. This simple repetition generously and explicitly reiterates her questioning of her own steps, and sets us free to trust and delight in our own experience with and interpretation of her work.