Julie Gross

"Drawing serves as an extension of my breath, setting up a kind of dance..."

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Julie Gross/Work Statement/ March 2018

My recent work from 2015-2018 has been on paper and has continued my interest in rhythmic color and form fields, images of flux vs. stasis based on sine waves or ‘s’ curves, & in spatial/temporal perceptual play. I have always been interested in the tension between the elusive and the concrete. In terms of color: choice of hue family carries each form’s energy forward. Value, intensity and temperature enable optimal variety of color interaction and surprise. The flat, non-incidental surface attempts to give each form (shape) full force as a carrier of its movement and spatial location. Of late, newer shapes have begun adding more weight and stasis against the linear momentum of the colored bands.

My new work from 2018 on, will be investigating ‘Architecture and the Body’. Over the years my interest in architecture has increased. Though it was a dream of mine to be an architect prior to that of being an artist, my math ‘skills’, or lack thereof, prevented me from pursuing this interest. However, always having drawn, since the age of 3 or 4, and taking my first drawing lessons @ 12…I continued my interest in drawing and painting through high school, and was proud to be chosen as ‘Best Artist’ of my high school graduating class. I went to Pratt as an undergraduate, studying Painting…and did Graphic Design for a ‘living’ for 5 years upon graduation. When I had a chance to paint for a summer in 1969 @ a residency @ Yaddo, I began to paint seriously, and then teach as a way to support my practice. I then went to Hunter graduate school to enable me to get more ongoing teaching jobs. While there I did my Master's thesis on 'Islamic & Pre-Islamic Brick & Tile Facades, With A Comparison of The Early Work of Frank Stella.

My teaching experience brought me first to New Jersey (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ., Pennsylvania (Kutztown State College), Rhode Island (RISD) & New York City. In NYC I taught @ Hunter College and Marymount Manhattan College, Pratt, Pratt/Manhattan, Parsons & Fashion Institute of Technology..I was @ Parsons for 35 years, and @ FIT, for 20. I retired from Parsons & FIT by 2015.

I have continued my ongoing painting practice since that first summer of painting @ Yaddo, where I began by doing ‘Process-oriented painting’…pouring & squeegee-ing acrylic paint onto canvas tacked to the floor. These were quite large and I was able to show them at two one-person shows in Soho, @ Warren Benedek & Frank Marino Galleries. I also had two person shows @ OK Harris Gallery also in Soho. In the eighties I showed with Stephen Rosenberg Gallery, (Soho). My work in the ‘90’s, titled the ‘Event Horizon’s’ were in a horizontal format and attempted to expand light, air and space in an alternation of doubled ‘sine-waves’ with ‘empty spaces’.Toward the end of that decade, starting in 1998, I began to work with exclusively with circles.This series continued for about 12 years. I worked in gouache on paper doing studies for the paintings, which were also in oil on linen. This group of work was done in a square format.

In 2011 my work morphed into more linear forms, but again utilized ‘sine-waves’. Except in this iteration, the ‘waves’ were thicker and had more weight, and were often paired so they held more weight as well as rhythm. These works have now evolved into a horizontal format, so the elements are similar but take on a more relaxed reading as they don’t ‘confront’ as much, but suggest a more panoramic take on the forms. Color is again pivotal in my work, and it’s weight, mood, temperature, and spatial suggestion allow for myriad iterations of these structures.

PREVIOUS SERIES:

Drawing precedes painting in my art. Since 1998 I have been using compasses to choreograph a network of circular forms, originally based on a sine wave or 's' curve. These play with my interest in centrifugal/centripetal forces, in edges that set up tension as well as flow. Symmetry and other sets at times reference echo, reflection and establish pattern. As forms expand and contract, interconnect and vie for dominance, the drawing serves as an extension of my breath, setting up a kind of dance that pulsates across the surface. Circles remain or morph into other shapes until an overall web of 'bubble slices' exists.

In the paintings, these forms serve as vessels for color. The painted surface is precise and uninflected allowing spatial interaction to reveal itself simply and clearly, establishing a balance between surface tension and movement. I am compelled by the discreet relationships that emerge from the interplay of color and form, in a tense field where subject and ground continually alternate. I want the images to act as suspended, yet connected slices of light, breathing, tense and emergent.

Julie Gross: flux in sharp focus
by Stephen Maine

The work of New York-based Julie Gross has for some years been characterized by a network or matrix of interlocking circles and bulbous shapes derived from circles, notably a plump, animated teardrop shape. Drawing is the generative stage and point of departure for this remarkably consistent body of work; the artist develops a typically elegant, buoyant schematic with a compass on tracing paper, always square in format (and beautiful in their own right, known to those who have been privileged to visit her studio). These working drawings lead to color studies in gouache on paper, where the chromatic relationships are worked out. Her finished paintings, in oil on linen, reflect the careful planning in their sleek surfaces, unequivocal contours and pristine color, but nevertheless convey the excitement of decision-making, and the artist's delight in coming to grips with the infinitely complex range of possibility afforded by the discerning use of even a small number of individual hues. Gross' brand of geometric abstraction depicts flux, not stasis, and teems with an unruly, if superficially decorous, energy.

Interrelated shapes disport themselves laterally across these canvasses, their unmodulated color suggesting nothing of atmospheric perspective and its attendant illusion of spatial recession. As in a diagram showing the relative sizes of the planets, shifts in scale tug at but do little to defeat the extremely shallow space of the paintings, which is based on a paradigm of overlapping rather than enveloping. The abundant visual pleasure of the work owes much to the way color seeps into the crevices between shapes, these intervals becoming as freighted as the relationships between the larger masses. Central to the pictorial dynamic is an optical snap of positive/negative exchange, as in "Mercuree," where a central teardrop shape in a dense, orangey ochre seems to be pushing its way out from behind larger orbs of pale yellow and deep purple, only to be confronted with its counterparts in warm gray and pale aqua blue. A six-sided wine-dark void at the center of the hazy, herbaceous "O-zone" - an exquisite shape in itself - is qualified by a smaller, contiguous teardrop of the same color, which pulls the larger shape forward and gives it sudden substance.

If her accomplishment as a painter were limited to that of a designer of high-voltage visual poetry, that alone would set Gross apart from her peers. But her paintings carry the added heft of a psychological charge just beneath their well-honed surfaces. More than most paintings, each of these seems to be a closed system. The square format the artist favors implies no particular thrust or expansiveness of its own, but rather containment. Formal rigor cannot wholly veil a whimsical morphological narrative wherein the arcing, curling shapes, as if in a paradigm of human dealings, appear to be insinuating themselves into an established but mutable hierarchy. These colored shapes are also players, negotiating their status within their milieu, not locked in place but fluid, ambitious, always looking to improve their position, to cut a deal, to trade up.

STEPHEN MAINE is an artist and writer working in Brooklyn, New York. His criticism appears regularly in Art in America and The Art Book, and he comments on the Brooklyn scene in "Dateline Brooklyn" for artnet.com.