June 15, 2019
Wildlife marks Paris-born, New York-based artist Julie Curtiss’s debut solo exhibition at the gallery. New York City, nature, and tropes of femininity inspire Curtiss’ subversive and wildly imaginative paintings, sculptures, and gouaches. Rockaway Beach, Chinatown, East Village hair salons, and Upper West Side shops are the urban jungle through which Curtiss prowls for quotidian scenes, rendering them surreal as she plays with diametrically opposed forces of attraction and repulsion, humor and darkness, shadow and light.
In one painting, a hazy beach scene shows a group of women lounging topless, their tan lines and exposed nipples playfully juxtaposed against the ocean horizon, where pointy sailboats glide across the water. In another, the neon sign of a Chinatown storefront window glows against three sizzling ducks, freshly roasted. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Curtiss’ largest painting to date, looming at over eight feet tall. In it, an elegantly dressed woman with perfectly coiffed hair sits with her back to the viewer. A glamorous chandelier hangs over her head. Her gown is hiked up over her knees; the throne on which she sits is a toilet—a decidedly indiscreet nod to Buñuel’s classic take on the charms of the bourgeoisie, as cockroaches crawl under the floorboards of the gilded bathroom.
The artist’s sharp, incisive painting technique is on full display; each blade of grass, each fiber of a carpet, and every strand in a coil of tresses, is rendered with intricate and rigorous care. Her witty visual puns play with our ideas and expectations about the body, encouraging exploration of the ambiguity of life itself and our relation to each other, to nature, and to our primal instincts. The Chicago Imagists and Surrealists are immediately recognizable influences, but internalized by Curtiss and rendered in a style that is decidedly and uniquely her own.
The exhibition coincides with the release of Curtiss’ new artist book, The Dinner Party, published by Spheres Publications, and a limited edition silkscreen print, Escargot.