EVOKE Contemporary showcases Julie Speed’s complex figurative paintings, prints and collages in a solo exhibition that runs through the end of January.
“Utilizing her keen sense of the absurd, Speed ponders the big questions-the role of religion, isolation and longing, sexuality, sin and guilt-with a sly, sometimes dark, sense of humor and a steadfast refusal to offer the viewer any tidy resolutions,” says gallery owner/director Kathrine Erickson.
Speed always begins without an end result in mind, adding that “if I make the mistake of starting something with a pre-conceived idea, then the work almost always ends up as ham-fisted, condescending or otherwise annoying.”
She says that “once in a while (particularly lately) I get hit with an almost irresistible urge to add my two cents to the cacophony of instant opinions. If I give in, I always end up throwing it (the work) away.”
Among the 43 pieces in the show are several with religious subjects. Speed’s gouache and collage work “Good Friday” features Jesus on a cross but wasn’t initially inspired by the crucifixion. Its inspiration: old pieces of Japanese woodblock prints that were stretched from one side of the painting to the other. “That was my base, and I had nothing else in mind when I began,” Speed explains.
The Pope wasn’t originally in her gouache painting “Pope Descending,” which depicts a papal figure falling down a flight of stairs. Initially using herself as the model, Speed changed the falling figure to a papal figure on what turned out to be the day before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from the papal throne.
According to Speed, a resident of Marfa, Texas for many years, creating art involves solving a visual puzzle. “The arrangement of shapes in a composition is either right or wrong, just like math,” she contends. “The composition drives the narrative, not vice versa.”