“Drawing serves as an extension of my breath, setting up a kind of dance…”

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Julie A. Gross/Work Statement/ May 2023

 

My work: It’s difficult to know how to begin writing about this. When I start to work, it is intuitive. I start without any prior plan or set idea as to what I’m “trying to do.” I just begin. Of course I have my predilections. I am interested in architecture and color. My impulse is also to work geometrically and has been for about thirty years.     My involvement with color is primary, and so to combine these three Interests—architecture, color and geometry--has resulted in the body of my work for over fifty years. When I started painting, in 1970, my work was all about “process.” My canvases were stapled to the floor and I applied the (acrylic) paint by pouring it directly onto the canvas. I then used squeegies and sponges to distribute it. The works were very large, in the vicinity of 70" x 100". The images were abstract, “allover,” active, layered and somewhat moody. Once I brought “divisions” into the composition by actually “segmenting” the surface into sections, I could then “play-off” one section against another in a color and surface dialogue and build up visual tension.     In 1998 my work “took a new turn” and I started making compositions using circles. The format was now square, not rectilinear. As it became “hard-edge,” all forms had a “border” and could play against all other forms very concretely. The work was sensual and active, and the colors, at times, were dramatic as well as harmonious.     Once I started teaching color, for about 40 years, my interest and learning about the subject broadened. My concerns have always been to keep the surface active & rhythmic, but at the same time to optimize visual tension.     Currently I am working in both a square as well as a horizontal “rectilinear” format, continuing with my predilection for geometrical shapes interacting with one another. I look forward to discovering what my efforts will create.

 

 

Julie A. Gross May 1, 2023 New York City

 

 

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’s 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.