American Contemporary Gallery, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, recently opened a new and riveting show, exhibiting paintings by artist Julia Goldman. The show, Magazine, presents a series of oil paintings by the artist, focusing on the themes of repetition and femininity. The paintings, each differing from the next ever so slightly, reveal images of women, obstructed or interrupted by other images of women, questioning stereotypes of women.
It is interesting, because I found that the work, while certainly prompting the viewer to investigate the power of repetition, more strongly speaks to feminism, and the history of both feminism and the female image. In a recent interview with ARTINFO, Goldman felt that calling her work feminist was “a stretch”, claiming that she primarily works with the subject of women because it is most familiar to her. While this is a fair statement, my reading of the work, calls forth rather brilliant comments on feminism and the female image, that I think Goldman should take more credit for.
To me the show was not just about the repeated image, but more about the evolution of female empowerment. While many of the pieces include the image of a woman being obstructed by a different image of a woman, in one of the pieces, the image of the woman is interrupted by a teakettle; perhaps symbolic of the stereotypes of women. The entire show in fact, had a sort of 1950’s feel to it: the clothing the women are clad in, the style of the women themselves. I cannot help but think that this reference to the 1950’s has to do with the rise of feminism, and is representative of a time in which women began to fight against these stereotypes and become working individuals in society rather than housewives. To me the entire show captures this so well: there is something eerie about the repeated image of the women, they seem more like mannequins than people, and they are trapped within the confines of the frame. But at the same time, the repetition and obstructions signal a certain desire to break free, to be an individual: to be different, amplified by the inclusion of flowerpots and plants in some of the pieces. There is a certain “tamed wildness”; a flower in a pot suggests something naturally wild but controlled and regulated by humans, reminiscent of the sentiment behind the rise of feminism. Both the women and the flowers in the pot seek to break free of the barriers in front of them. In many ways, the women become the flowers in the pot.
Goldman makes clear that the use of repetition in image and theme is an integral to her show. The usage of a repetition leads me to propose some questions. Can the viewer more strongly grasp a subject when it is repeated again and again in a work? How does it make us view each image differently? Like in the work of Morandi, is the repeated theme more beneficial for the artist, to work on and perfect an understanding? Or is it equally important for the viewer to gain an understanding of the arts ideal?
The use of repetition and minor interruptions in each piece are comparable to glitch art, which is made by manipulating the digital code of an image so that it is slightly “off”. The interruptions of the female image in Goldman’s work become the “glitches” or minute “errors”, slightly changing the otherwise repeated image (or code). It may be an interesting twist to view the standard image that Goldman uses as a code, and the different interruptions that she makes, as glitches.
Overall, the show is definitely worth seeing. It is both unique and intriguing, as Goldman presents several important issues in her work. Just as Goldman’s work is intellectually captivating, the paintings also provide proof to Goldman’s talent as a painter, and each piece is truly, beautiful.
Words/Photos: Gracie Brahimy © 2013
Julia Goldman: 11 September – 20 October – American Contemporary Gallery 4 East 2nd Street at Bowery New York NY 10003