Jamian Juliano-Villani - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “I feel painting has gone farther and farther away from expressing yourself and is now all about expressing painting traditions. Who cares about that?”
    — Jamian Juliano‐Villani


    Composed with an amalgamation of references culled from the artist’s obsessive absorption of visual culture, the bewildering 2019 painting Hand's Job display a rare clarity in composition and takes viewers on another adventure into the humorously bizarre and wild visual realm of Italian American artist Jamian Juliano‐Villani. Working with projectors and sourced imagery, Juliano‐Villani’s signature practice of combining disparate styles and subject matters pushes the envelope of the conventional subconscious preconception that everything should make logical sense, garnering her growing recognition and popularity in the international art scene.



     The artist discusses her practice in her Brooklyn Studio, 2015 Video Courtesy of Art21


    A Playful Tease


    Compared to her iconic loud colour palette and bazaar‐like visual arrangement, Hand's Job offers a refreshing sense of organization that is unusual to Juliano‐Villani’s oeuvre. The painting refers to the famous Instagram trope of a woman who leads her partner by hand seen from the partner’s perspective, as they look upon stunning views of exotic holiday destinations. The picture features the back of a slender and sexy young woman in a black bikini, holding the hand of her partner, whilst looking into a snowy urban landscape with bare wintery trees. This humorous juxtaposition is toppled by a translucent layer of pink right on the woman’s back: a pair of anthropomorphic lungs with alarming grey‐coloured bronchus and bronchioles is smiling at the audience. Absurdly, this pair of comical lungs is wearing a red nose and thick lips, evocative of a clown’s makeup or the cartoon character Mr. Potato Head, whilst wearing a pair of white sneakers. Unequivocally bizarre, the current composition elicits hearty laughter whilst creating a trippy psychedelic effect.


    Candid and carefree, Juliano‐Villani’s not‐taking‐myself‐so‐seriously attitude comes through in her creative choice. It is not entirely easy for one to overlook the conspicuous double entendre intended by the artist in the title, not to mention that this provocative name barely corresponds to the subject matter. The artist made clear with this naughty mischief that she is unbothered by what others might think.



    Peter Saul, Two Napoleons Crossing the Alps, 2015
    Sold by Phillips, New York, 16 May 2018 for USD$93,750 (Premium)

    © 2022 Peter Saul / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    With her bold colour palette, provocative style, and true‐to‐self attitude, Juliano‐Villani’s approach has evoked references to brow‐raising works by fellow American painter Peter Saul. Originally following the footsteps of Francis Bacon, Saul had his heart set on creating works that are gloomy and melancholic in atmosphere. However, upon seeing two viewers laughing while looking around his first show in Paris, he unexpectedly changed his mind to be a ‘funny artist’ i. So committed was Saul that he changed his self‐ definition, embracing this new identity and has enjoyed much blessed laughter and humour ever since.


    Juliano‐Villani certainly shares this light‐heartedness with Saul in her creations. By juxtaposing visual elements that are seemingly mis‐matched, she challenges common perceptions of comfort and the norm: ‘You know how you have all the different areas for tastes on your tongue? In paintings I've got to hit those marks‐and humour is one of them.’ As the artist jocularly explains, ‘When I make a painting, I like to start out with something stupid, then bring it somewhere to cancel that out‐then bring it back to something else... so aggressively stupid that you can't even talk about it!’ ii


    “Finding the ‘I’m‐not‐sure area’ is the thing that I find interesting.”
    — Jamian Juliano‐Villani


    Outta Your Mind!


    “I respond to things immediately, in like an emotional, guttural way, and that’s how decisions are formed.”
    — Jamian Juliano‐Villani


    Juliano‐Villani’s highly intuitive and illogical creative process flies in the face of modern human’s habitual obsessiveness to asking ‘why’, with the expectation of getting a comprehensible answer. She works with the method of projecting images onto a canvas, usually from any number of elements taken from her extensive archive of visual inspirations. This allows her to include as many visual references as she sees fit in a single painting, creating an element of surprise that has become the defining aesthetic of her repertoire, interacting with the viewer in a straightforward way that is highly comparable to her approach to life.



    Detail of the present work


    The literal association between the subject matter and title Hand's Job is rather straightforward to notice in the painting, yet beyond which, nothing really makes logical sense. The animated smiling pink lungs, however, truly throws the audience for a loop. The artist’s bizarre choice leaves one making all sorts of nonsensical guesses, yet not satisfied with what they come up with. The question ‘why it is here’ is not so much more important than the fact that ‘it is here’. By leaving the theme open‐ended to the viewer, Juliano‐Villani allows the audience open‐access to her idiosyncratic thoughts, urging the viewer to really look at what is presented in front of them.



    Eclectic Collage


    “I make my paintings out of necessity, and like using the things around me to communicate what I need to, because I’m really bad at articulating how I feel, vocally. The paintings do that for me.”
    — Jamian Juliano‐Villani


    Communication lies at the core of Juliano‐Villani’s practice, and her paintings are her surrogate for connecting with other human beings. This propels her to use widely recognized cartoon and comic characters, as well as social media tropes in her work, as a way of externalising her inner mind in visual forms, making it accessible to the viewer.



    Lot 228, KAWS, Untitled (CALIVIN KLEIN), 1999
    Phillips Hong Kong Day Sale, 21 June 2022 
    Estimate: HK$500,000‐700,000


    With comparable styles of communication, street art is a highly accessible form of aesthetics that easily resonates and appeals to the public — qualities that are also identifiable in Juliano‐Villani’s practice. At first glance, visual elements of Hand's Job resembles an intervened photograph, which calls to mind street art intervention on ads and billboards by American artist and designer KAWS in the 90s. This association is reinforced by the visual references that populate Juliano‐Villani’s works, each ‘rub[ing] up against others culled from altogether different times, places, and sensibilities. Within one painting, the references can span generations and decades.’ iii


    Unconcerned with the conventional definition of good taste, Juliano‐Villani’s style is inarguably controversial. She lives and paints as she pleases, parading her unique personal taste in everything she undertakes. By creating pictures that are packed with both sentiment and banal humour, the artist commands attention to her inner vision that stems from the very recesses of her psyche. 


    “I'm all about explicitness; not crude, but legible.”
    — Jamian Juliano‐Villani


    Collector’s Digest


    Born in 1987 in Newark, New Jersey, Jamian Juliano‐Villani now lives and works in New York. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2013, forfeiting the chance to further her studies with a master’s degree and opting instead to learn by working as a studio assistant to artists Erik Parker and Dana Schutz.


    Juliano‐Villani held her first seminal museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in 2015. Since then, the artist had also exhibited internationally at Kunsthall Stavanger (2021); JTT Gallery, New York (2020); Massimo De Carlo, London (2019); Studio Voltaire, London (2016), Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2015), amongst others. Her work has recently been included group shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Jewish Museum, MoMA PS1 and the Brooklyn Museum, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Kunsthal Rotterdam and the MAXXI Museum in Rome.


    Earlier in 2021, Juliano‐Villani opened her own gallery in New York City called O’Flaherty’s. The artist’s latest solo exhibition, Steak Wars, also just closed at the Pond Society in Shanghai (11 September to 30 October 2021), which marked the artist’s debut in China. Her work is currently on show at the 59th Venice Biennale at the Arsenale (23 April – 27 November 2022).



    Jamian Juliano‐Villani’s works at the Venice Biennale, 2022


    iAndy Battaglia, quoted in ‘Peter Saul & Jamian Juliano‐Villani’, ARTnews, December 2019, online
    ii ibid.
    iii Laura Phipps and Elisabeth Sherman, ‘Flatlands: On Unstable Ground’, Whitney Museum of American Art, online

    • Provenance

      JTT Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Russell Tovey and Robert Diament, Talk Art: everything you wanted to know about contemporary art but were afraid to ask, London, 2012, p. 132 (illustrated)
      Andy Battaglia, 'Peter Saul & Jamian Juliano-Villani', ARTnews, 3 February 2020, online (illustrated)


Hand's Job

signed, titled and dated '2019 "HAND'S JOB" JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI' on the stretcher
acrylic on canvas
152.4 x 121.9 cm. (60 x 47 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

HK$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for HK$819,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022