Oil on linen
28 x 30 inches
Gordon Robichaux is pleased to present Couches and mugs, an exhibition of recent paintings by Julia Goldman. This is the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery, and her first solo presentation in New York since 2013. In conjunction with the exhibition, Goldman produced an artist’s book with images of paintings and drawings from this recent body of work and wrote the following text:
No need to decipher: there’s a woman, looking away, abutted by a round handle, all orange.
In another: the handle of a cream-colored mug, straight on, with slight green graphics, slightly suggestive.
And a third: a deep orange handle flanked by muddy reflections, surfacing and asserting more and less, the whole mug tapered just enough to show a large, lime green polka dot on the left.
Then: two white couches, cropped to nearly the width of single cushions, displaying simple yet expressive green leaves. The leaves come from the new PG Tips packaging.
Taken together, incoherent yet plausible images form.
Each couch is a couch, each mug a mug, each handle a handle.
I cannot escape filling them, though. It’s their nature to beckon. The show is Couches and mugs—it’s the most mundane objects, as well as the most intimate. The most under- and overdetermined. And as with the objects, so with the images—if you see anatomy, if you imagine sex, you aren’t wrong. But the opacity of upholstery and stoneware and the simplicity of a stripe or a leaf are there as well.
I combine and recombine, exploring possible juxtapositions. I see what I've done, what I could do, in preparation for the show. The resulting photos, this book, expand my work, duplicating and capturing more than is physically possible. I'll have to choose.
_ _ _ _
The white couch in my apartment is an unimposing, moderately stylish, largely neglected companion. I draw it, the volume taking shape by digging into the crevices between cushions. I paint it the same way, focusing on the contours and letting the rest remain untouched, gesso white. It’s quick! But the white invites more painting, and I proceed, inventing and stealing bits of shadows, graphics, and still lifes. I place them on the open white. The couch is embellished, tattooed, vandalized. Allusions to folds of flesh and blank canvases strengthen. Through it all, I maintain the physical presence of the couch by maintaining its contours.
Exhausting that thread, I pick up an old one: mugs. Staying close, and yet straying: mugs with high-gloss glazes that reflect their surroundings and transform even the most pleasing rooms, distorting and rendering them muted.
The phenomenon runs counter to the usual, comforting associations of mugs, and to their usual, rounded, neutral, friendly designs.
I try to depict the contradiction, gravitating to an orange mug for reference. It’s bulky and bright, possibly appealing to the adult who admires children’s clothes (yes). It’s also dark enough to show reflections.
I want the juxtaposition of the reflected, distorted surroundings and the rounded design to feel sharp and uneasy. I want the painting of the mug, while accurate, to counter its reputation.
Painting tempers the differences, however, homogenizing the contrasting elements.
Close on the heels of the freewheeling couches, and ever aware of other receptive devices (too pervasive to name! Infringing on thought if not on space), I take more liberty: I stray from reflections of immediate surroundings and replace with other images: more graphic but also more thematically compatible (the woman looking away, for instance, mentioned above). All are easily desirable, and like a mug, modest to the point of invisible. I anticipate that the imported scenes, combined with a handle, will be doubly comforting. They will appear graspable, portable, easily possessed. (A handle extends to meet your hand. It facilitates access.) And perhaps they do, but more than that, they are broached. The handle becomes monstrous next to the woman. Finally, there is sharpness in the softest material.
_ _ _ _
Although there are enough orange mugs and white couches to exhibit on their own, I put them together. I wade through the resulting narratives about painting and domesticity. I don’t want to merely demonstrate expressive painting as decorative decals, I do want to maintain body and hand and their sometime syncopation with couches and mugs, objects that are designed to accommodate them, and sometimes do. I hope the liberties I take contribute to the syncopation. I hope that is present in the gallery.
28 x 30 inches
34 x 30 inches
30 x 36 inches
36 x 35 inches
30 x 36 inches