Kate McQuillen: A Thief with No Loot: Gallery Exhibition February 3 - April 1, 2024


    Massey Klein Gallery is pleased to present A Thief With No Loot, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Kate McQuillen on view until April 1st. A Thief With No Loot presents new paintings by Kate McQuillen that explore the transfer of ideas across time. Drawing from a wide range of influences, and coaxing images from specific source material, the artist creates works that firmly establish their own situational reality rather than acting as easily identifiable depictions of figures and scenes. McQuillen’s paintings speak for themselves and create endless intangible and fleeting moments for the viewer to recognize and reminisce while simultaneously forgetting and misregistering.




  • Kate McQuillen, Four to Three, 2022

    Kate McQuillen

    Four to Three, 2022

    In Four to Three, McQuillen depicts the classic Greek theme of Ajax and Achilles engaged in a board game, but expands into a combined image that is at once both a checkerboard and a floral arrangement in a vase. 


    Portions of Ajax and Achilles appear in the middle section; their eyes are depicted as modified white squares, the arch of Achilles helmet is clearly visible, and sections of their hands and spears are hinted at. On Exekias’s Vatican amphora, the score of the game (4 to 3) is written on the vase near the player’s mouths.  In McQuillen's piece, those numbers also appear below the eyes as a set of dice.


    During the time the artist was  examining this vase, she turned 43 and remarked, "I’ve always been inspired by contemporary artists Jacqueline Humphries and Charline von Heyl’s use of their own initials in their works, and I wanted to use a similar approach to mark my personal history into the piece.  I’m also particularly inspired by how Greek Attic potter-painters of the era signed their vases. They would write, for instance, 'Exekias painted me,' in the voice of the vase. In this convention, the artwork itself becomes animated, speaking for itself."

  • The creation of Slow-Talking Heroine was inspired by the straightforward delivery of the lyrics of Florence Shaw of Dry Cleaning and Shalita Dietrich of Lewsberg.

  • Kate McQuillen, Eight Ball Corner Pocket, 2022

    Kate McQuillen

    Eight Ball Corner Pocket, 2022

    In this work, a single, fast-moving brushmark fills the picture plane, hovering over and occasionally intertwining with a noisy background layer. The overlapping sections of the brushwork create a deceptively deep space on an otherwise completely flat surface. The title is a nod to the confident (or over-confident) pool player who calls their shot, whether they make it or not.

  • I’m often seeking the feeling of an image just appearing, being slightly in motion, or in progress of developing. Visual elements in my work can have a feeling of an emulsion, others appear like light leaks, and the smooth surface beneath the layers of acrylic  bounces light back at the viewer. In my process, when the squeegee passes over my water marks, it captures what is there in one instantaneous stroke. It feels similar to the snap of the shutter, or the reeling of film. Each piece is a combination of layers of these strokes, each one carrying its own thin layer of information. 


    In a 1999 interview between Werner Herzog and Roger Ebert, Herzog spoke about recreating poor-quality film shot by his brother by projecting it onto a fabric and shooting from the other direction. He said he was like "a thief without loot,” coaxing images out from the influences and materials of others, and having images appear to him, which then became his to take. Images may be immaterial, but they are also prizes. Throughout the making of the show A Thief With No Loot, I became enamored with two disparate topics: Greek Attic Vases and the films of Werner Herzog. This title alludes to his own reliance on his artistic heroes, and mine on him.

  • Kate McQuillen, Ajax and Achilles Field, 2022

    Kate McQuillen

    Ajax and Achilles Field, 2022

    In this piece, McQuillen seeks to create a color field for Ajax and Achilles with a sense of deep space, epic time, and incremental transitions. At the top, a moiré pattern, somewhat reminiscent of a repeating Greek meander pattern, hovers within the yellow.

  • Kate McQuillen, Hero Worship, 2022

    Kate McQuillen

    Hero Worship, 2022
    Acrylic on panel
    43 x 45 inches
    44.25 x 46.25 inches framed
  • A vertical band of scraped and scratched green runs from top to bottom. A negative form, reminiscent of the torso of a broken Greek statue, floats in the upper left corner. Diagonal from the torso is an ambiguous form: perhaps another  figure? This painting is lighter and more delicate, hanging beneath a cluster of yellow dust that vibrates against a warm blue, giving a feeling of cool, sparking lightning.

  • Kate McQuillen, Dust Up, 2022

    Kate McQuillen

    Dust Up, 2022

    Visual gags in cartoons inspired much of the markmaking in this work: “fight clouds” with fists and curses erupting, trompe l’oeil landscape traps, pausing mid-air, and surviving TNT blasts. The Lichtenstein-like brush marks are the slightest bit out of focus, and moire patterns weave in and out of other printing imperfections. 

  • Kate McQuillen, Kylix, 2022

    Kate McQuillen

    Kylix, 2022

    Kylix are a type of ancient Greek drinking vessels that were painted with eyes on the bottom. When drinking from them, the eyes would align with the face of the person, also acting like a mask. The image feels quick and fleeting, and uses terra cotta and cyan hues reminiscent of earth and sky. Each panel has a slightly different visual treatment, though they are paired together; the multi-panel works of Joan Mitchell, which do not always have a clear alignment or passage of marks across panels, are of interest to the artist. 

  • Kate McQuillen: A Thief with No Loot

  • Image Credit:  Exekias Amphora, Achilles and Ajax Engaged in a Game, c. 530 BC. Vatican Museums, Vatican.

    Interview Credit:  Herzog, Werner. Interview. Conducted by Roger Ebert. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. 1999.