Playful fascinations with hair, painted nails, shoes, and seafood play out in Julie Curtiss' surreal paintings and sculpture. The young Brooklyn-based artist explores themes of nature and culture and disrupts female archetypes through Magritte-esque substitutions.Read More
Half-French and half-Vietnamese, Julie Curtiss was born and raised in Paris. While studying for a BA and an MFA at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris between 2001 and 2006, she also spent time on exchange at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Following her studies, Curtiss moved to Tokyo, Japan, and later with her husband Clinton King to New York, where she currently lives and works. Her early Japanese work focused on drawing, before she began to develop her seminal paintings and sculpture from the mid-2010s while in New York. Prior to her practice taking off, Curtiss worked as a studio assistant under Jeff Koons and KAWS.
A range of aesthetic influences converge in the stylised figurative painting of Julie Curtiss. These include Chicago Imagists like Christina Ramberg, pop imagery from comics and Manga, and 18th- and 19th-century French figurative painting.
Julie Curtiss works with oil, matte and airbrushed acrylics, and gouache to create bright, vivid, and precisely rendered figurative scenes with a dark, underlying psychological humour.
At the core of Julie Curtiss' work is an interest in tropes of female identity as viewed through opposing lenses of 'culture' and 'nature'. She appropriates banal emblems of the domestic woman-type; cigarettes, teapots, vacuum cleaners and cropped domestic scenes. Meanwhile, she also utilises stereotypical emblems of femininity and seduction—long painted nails, high heels, and flowing hair, referencing the archetype of a woman with a natural animalistic drive. To reinforce her figures' existence as pure archetype, facial features are absent.
Complicating this figurative imagery, the artist creates abnormal, surreal visions in which banal and natural subjects are incongruously exchanged, including cigarettes, boots, teapots, trousers, and a motorbike. These abnormal situations, Curtiss explains, are created to 'contrast a feeling of familiarity with surrealism.'
In her food-based images, Julie Curtiss' work presents objects that are simultaneously seductive and repulsive: images of sushi that upon closer inspection offer severed fingers and human lips on rice, steaming roast chickens and ducks whose texture mimics long haired scalps, and dessert pie neatly topped with tight ridges of hair. As Curtiss told Vogue, 'I'm often galvanized by art that fascinates and petrifies you at the same time'.
Julie Curtiss also brings her playful substitutions to small-scale sculptures. Bun (2018) presents a fancy hat wrapped with synthetic hair that is braided and tied in a bun at the top. In Vis-à-vis (2020) Curtiss uses synthetic and human hair to create two freestanding wigs with cap-like fringes—blonde and brunette—engaged in a faceless face-off.
Curtiss' surreal meals have been three-dimensionally rendered as well. Konbini Sushi (2019) and Marilyn Sushi (2021) present the viewer with unsettling sushi dishes: human lips on rice complete with polymer clay ginger and wasabi.
In the 2021 group exhibition Shoo Sho, curated by Julie Curtiss, Anton Kern Gallery's WINDOW Space was transformed into an unusual storefront of shoe-based works. Made for the show, these sculptures include a human-hair-covered boot made by Julie Curtiss; Hein Koh's playful and mythical Who Lived in a Shoe (2021); and stoneware shoes by Genesis Belanger.
Julie Curtiss' debut at the Spring/Break art fair in 2017 drew much attention to her work. Julie Curtiss' solo shows include Monads and Dyads, White Cube, London (2021); Square One, Anton Kern Gallery, New York (2020); Wildlife, Anton Kern Gallery (2019); and Soft Shells, 106 Green Gallery, New York (2017).
Julie Curtiss' group shows include I Care Because You Do, The Mass, Tokyo (2021); No Patience for Monuments, Perrotin, Seoul (2019); Dreamers Awake, White Cube, London (2017); and Drawing Connections, Center for the Arts, Boston (2013).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021