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Julia Jacquette at Michael Steinberg
Art in America, Jan, 2005 by Faye Hirsch

Julia Jacquette has been working for three years on the eight paintings with wedding imagery that she recently showed at Michael Steinberg: details of bridal dresses, cakes and flowers gridded into adjacent, undemarcated squares on her canvases. Over the past decade, she has borrowed advertising and illustrational motifs from dated sources--1950s ladies' magazines and cookbooks, for example--but she seemed more interested in appropriating the iconography than in tweaking it visually. Food, jewelry and other vignettes were rather flatly painted, like signs.

This time, Jacquette says, she began with the idea of painting white-on-white, a venerated modernist theme since Malevich set the paradigm. Yet her achievement in this work is not simply in her allusions, astute as they are, ranging from Suprematism to Pop art to Jasper Johns's sensuous "Numerals." Here she seeks, and finds, virtuosity. In these paintings, minute ornamentation, closely observed, never distracts from the encompassing rhythms of the overall structure. Blooms in bouquets intersect jarringly at the edges of the squares in which they have been set, creating an unruly excitement in how we read them. In the two 72-inch-square White on White (Wedding Dresses), 2001 and 2002, glimpses of necks and hands are occasionally seen, but the focus is a series of 16 bodices, encrusted with embroidery and beadwork, which seem to gyrate from square to square in the exaggerated contrapposto of fashion-ad modeling. They create a suffocatingly feminine milieu, with colored light illuminating each square in a different pastel shade.

Indeed, we discover with pleasure the panoply of colors that can constitute white. Its purity is here compromised in a most felicitous, perhaps even punning manner (given the theme). The artist included four Richteresque "Geometric Paintings," abstract, indexical spectrums of the colors she used for the flowers and cakes, from a surprisingly dark gray to pastel pink, violet and, yes, white. This seemed, however, an unnecessary lesson.

The large White on White (Nine Sections of Wedding Cake), 2001, shows the sometimes outlandish confectionery edifices, complete with garlands of pearls and rosebuds, cupids and classical columns. In a smaller, more recent (2004) nine-part work, the frosting is seen close-up, so that a single lit candle becomes an event, and we are cast, in a more oceanic way, into the white-on-white expanse. Especially spectacular is White on White (Sixteen Kinds of Flowers), 2002, a 60-inch-square painting in which the bouquets of "white" flowers are articulated in a splendid display of closely valued hues and an array of textures. They evoke Andy Warhol's gridded impatiens, only to dispel the long shadow of Pop in a flurry of petals.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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