Arts+Leisure opens an exhibition of recent work by Julia Rooney

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Arts+Leisure opens an exhibition of recent work by Julia Rooney
Julia Rooney, @SomeHighTide, 2020, Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in.

NEW YORK, NY.- Arts+Leisure is presenting @SomeHighTiide, an exhibition of recent work by Julia Rooney. The exhibition will run from January 16th through February 21st, 2021.

Comprising a series of two by two-inch paintings, Julia Rooney’s exhibition @SomeHighTide queries our intimate relationships with our smartphones and their attendant social networks, with particular regard to the ways such platforms shape our habits of visual consumption and comprehension.

By adopting the harsh dimensional constraints of Instagram and similar photo-sharing applications, Rooney acknowledges the ubiquity of the smartphone screen, while her decidedly traditional mediums of oil paint and linen disturbs their veneer of manufactured precision and homogeneity. As hand-wrought effigies of the Instagram photo-square, Rooney’s paintings call attention to the inherent incongruities in superimposing a digital framework over the organic experiences of life and expression.

While the visual arts and society as a whole have had a long dalliance with social media, the marked social isolation and diffuse tragedy of the past year has greatly amplified the role it plays in our lives, with digital interaction and social interfacing gaining currency over concrete, “IRL” relationships. In the breakdown of physical collaboration and the disruption of conventional gallery protocol, digital surrogates have taken on an especially helpful and urgent position, becoming a bulwark against isolation while allowing artists to disseminate their work. However, in the face of Rooney’s imperfect squares—their edges distended and stretched from the weight of thick, impasto paint—one becomes aware of the lack native to digital representation, the absence of the unique material presence that @SomeHighTide throws into sharp focus.

Referencing the mechanics of the digital cloud, each painting is named with the prefix “IMG”, and their series-like nature places them further into the context of digital photo-sharing, like an individual’s image morphing over consecutive “selfies”. The nested “frames” in IMG_0410, IMG_0411, and IMG_0412 directly reference the geometry of screens, while circuit-like motifs proliferate in IMG_0320 and IMG_0323, forming disembodied, painterly portraits of the imagined insides of social media.

In IMG_1224, IMG_0326, and IMG_0325, grids of colored squares offer a rough-hewn, expressive take on pixelated screens, while the jagged angles and sharp hues IMG_0703 and IMG_0704 recall the artificial geometries of broken screens and digital glitches.

A variety of other abstract modes appear, incorporating organic, biomorphic, and technological forms in a striking fusion intensified by Rooney’s heavily textured surfaces.

In IMG_0503, IMG_0504, and IMG_0505, these elements converge in a series of erotic abstractions evocative of a displaced and anonymous desire. A more objectified eroticism appears in IMG_0402 or IMG_0508, wherein suggestions of body parts project the rawness of pornography or surreptitiously shared “nudes”.

@SomeHighTides’s engagement with digital media and social networks functions most immediately on a formal level. But equally important are the works’ small physical scale, their visual signifiers, and their channeling of the pathos and extremes of human emotion, so often located on such platforms. Refracting these human traces through layers of abstraction, Rooney lends them an expressive materiality accentuated by their remarkably small scale.

The eponymous @SomeHighTide, which depicts a QR code and stands apart at two by two-feet square, grounds the exhibition in the realm of social media, transforming the barcode device into a Mondrian-esque composition and providing a three-dimensional simulacra of the otherwise intangible code, further blurring the bounds between the physical and the digital.

Julia Rooney (b. 1989, New York, NY) is a visual artist and arts educator. Though rooted in painting, her practice often bridges other disciplines, including writing and collaborative, community-based projects. She holds an MFA in Painting/Printmaking from the Yale School of Art and a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard College. She has exhibited her work with Kopeikin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), Diane Rosenstein Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), Zeit Contemporary Art (New York, NY) and The Painting Center (New York, NY), amidst others. In 2019, she was an artist-in-residence through LMCC’s SU-CASA program, and previously has had teaching fellowships/partnerships through the Yale Prison Education Initiative, Yale University Art Gallery, More Art/Engaging Artists, The Joan Mitchell Foundation, and The First-Year Arts Program at Harvard College.

She is also trained as a Legacy Specialist through the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) program, and in 2018 participated in a panel discussion organized with Voices of Contemporary Art focusing on the creative intersections between the CALL program and her own studio work. Rooney has done residencies at DNA (Provincetown, MA), The Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, VT), Vytlacil (Sparkill, NY), and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts (Saratoga, WY). In 2021/22, she will do residencies at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) and The Joan Mitchell Center (New Orleans, LA).

A full-color, limited-edition artist book featuring works by Julia Rooney, with essays by Cora Frazier, Ernest A. Bryant III, Jeffrey Grunthaner, and Samir Nedzamar will be available for purchase at the gallery or online.

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