Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Jamian Juliano-Villani

Fusing together Family Circus, Alien, with a dose of good old-fashioned romance, Jamian creates a hilarious and unsettling depiction of the simultaneous terror and desire that a son feels for his overbearing mother. The mother is an archetype that Jung explored at great length, and an archetype which contains both positive and negative characteristics. As infants we are completely vulnerable and entirely dependent upon our mothers for survival, and from the beginning of our lives our relationship to our mothers is one of the most powerful and pivotal bonds we will ever share. Although the mother archetype represents love, nurturing, and wisdom to Jung, it also represents a dark, domineering, abysmal force. The darker aspects of the archetype manifest themselves in symbols such as the witch or the dragon. Jamian breaks several taboos, not only by depicting the mother as a monster, but by also encroaching on insidious themes of pedophilia and incest. There's a brilliant Indie movie, that I'd suggest you'd see, gentle reader, called Spanking the Monkey. It's one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. The plot line revolves around a twenty-something year old who stays home one summer to take care of his foxy mother who has a broken leg, while his father is away on business. Things do end up taking an Oedipal turn, and although Spanking the Monkey is less bloody than Sophocles, it's still a must see.     
Jamian appropriates the hypermasculinized hot rod icon, Rat Fink, and strips him of his machismo by bringing to our attention that he is, "mother's worry." There is a tenderness to how the image becomes feminized through the text. Although this is a rat that only a mother could love, this already anthropomorphized creature is further humanized through the emphasis placed on his mother and her concern. Jamian uses appropriated imagery to create a highly specific narrative, which is a shift from much of appropriated imagery from the past which aimed to do the opposite. In Rauschenberg and Polke the appropriated signs are stripped of their initial cultural context and meaning through the aestheticization of nonlinear collage and the overwhelming bombardment of signs used. Koons also employs a similar strategy in the fragmented images found in his paintings. 

Not one to underestimate the importance of subject matter, Jamian does not shy away from including race as an ongoing theme in her work. Most of the time artists only depict their own race in their work and act as though their race is the only race that exists. Which is especially strange in a country that's inarguably one of the most ethnically diverse, if not the most diverse nations in the world. It's a touchy subject and seemingly much too incendiary for the politically correct art world to consider. The self-congratulatory art world likes to pretend to be liberal and open-minded, when in actuality it is typically conservative, smug, and myopic. I see a parallel between Paul Pfeiffer's videos and Jamian's paintings. Like Pfeiffer, Jamian uses appropriated imagery and explores race in an intriguing and ambiguous way. When Pfeiffer first began showing his appropriated videos of African American basket ball players, many people automatically assumed he was African American, when in fact, Pfeiffer is of Filipino descent.
I've been thinking a lot about censorship lately, and how there are people who want to censor anything that does not align itself with their belief structure, and how so many are willing to give up their freedom of speech just to keep things clean and inoffensive. Jamian's work especially has a way of making people uncomfortable, which I think is incredibly exciting and refreshing. It seems to be a commonly held belief that after the Chapman brothers and Saatchi's Sensation show, no artist can do anything to be a source of contention to anyone anymore. Since the economy tanked, we have become so accustomed to seeing so many artists churn out insipid, derivative drivel that we cannot imagine things any other way. The lemming abstractionist movement (also commonly referred to as the Martha Stewart School of Provisional Painting) still seems to have inexplicable hegemony over most of the art world. Thankfully, there are pockets of artists who are still creating vital, subversive works. 
Here are a few excerpts from Fellini's Notes on Censorship:

Censorship is a way of admitting our own weakness and intellectual insufficiency.
     Censorship is always a political tool: certainly not an intellectual one. Criticism is an intellectual tool: it presupposes a knowledge of what it judges and opposes.
     Criticism does not destroy; it puts an object in its proper place among other objects.
     To censor is to destroy, or at least to oppose the process of reality.
     ...Apart from this pride and euphoria, there is also an excessive degree of resignation, fear of authority and dogma, customs and formulas, all of which have made us very law-abiding and submissive.
     All this leads to censorship.


  1. this too also cool and have never seen/heard before... who are some examples of the "lemming abstractionist movement", i have seen a lot of toothless backlash on the provisonal/casual/etc-isms but it never gets specific.

    (i was included in one of those articles, so i am especially curious... btw i dont know about anyone else but when i started making my small abstractions it seemed like everybody was painting deer and rainbows and shit like that... so it all comes and goes around)

  2. i'm surprised that you were included in one of those articles, because your art isn't what i was writing about.

    i'm not going to get specific because i don't like to specifically calling anyone out, i think that would be mean spirited. i think that in every time period there are people who innovate and people who copy.