"Mrs. Evan Williams" is Jamian Juliano-Villani’s third solo show at JTT gallery. On view are 11 paintings, four of which feature sculptural interventions. Also included is a wallpaper installation that gives the illusion of peering through the exhibition space to the office behind it. The unconventional juxtaposition of the “backroom” plopped in the middle of the neutral white cube is a non-sequitur that reflects the artist’s continued use of this device within the individual works.
"Chef Mike" borrows its composition from Norman Rockwell’s 1942 painting of a Thanksgiving feast, Freedom from Want. In Rockwell’s original, a large turkey is being presented by a proud matriarch to a crowded table of eager guests across several generations. In Juliano-Villani’s "Chef Mike", the idyllic meal is interrupted by a microwave which has been programmed to open its door every 10 seconds, flash multi-color LED lights, play, Stereo Love by the Romanian duo Edward Maya and Vika Jigulina and then close again. If Rockwell’s Freedom from Want is an iconic representation of cliché American values centered around a bounty and the wholesome tradition of sharing home-prepared food shared with loved ones; Juliano-Villani’s update offers the moment when that tradition ends.
"Little Girls Stretching" depicts two young twins who are stretching on a gym mat. While most of Juliano-Villani’s work can be considered to some degree through the lens of self-portraiture, "Little Girls Stretching" is explicitly so. Juliano-Villani herself is a twin and practiced gymnastics for most of her childhood, and went on to teach gymnastics in her teenage years and early twenties. While her work is often noted for the combination of disparate elements, "Little Girls Stretching" demonstrates a concision and continuity with regard to imagery and context that, in this case, changes the pace of the entire exhibition.
In "The Origin of the World", Juliano-Villani makes an adolescent nod to the 1866 painting by Courbet that scandalized the French art-viewing elite. Hers features a tadpole-like creature with a human penis. Here, in a maneuver at once ambitious and self-deprecating, Juliano-Villani gestures to a quintessential example of art that pushes against the boundary of what is considered presentable, sophisticated, and worthy by presenting a seemingly sophomoric collage deployed to taboo-busting effect. The demonstration of unharnessed artistic expression left a strong impression on Juliano-Villani in her formative years. Throughout this exhibition, and across her collective body of work, is the implication that concern for sense, conclusion, and decorum can be shuffled off in the service of an idiosyncratic expression of uninhibited thought memory and impulse.