At nearly seven feet across, Life Boat (2021) is the largest painting in “Uncle,” Julia Rommel’s fifth solo exhibition at Bureau. A peach and red strip across the bottom left echoes a red and peach strip across the top right, as if the canvas were an unfolded triangle. Textured patches on the lateral sides of the work recall paint smudged when not quite dry. The painting makes no attempt to hide the process of its making: stuttering staples pin patches of canvas together, including one blue triangle that sticks out from the rest of the composition. Elsewhere, a thin passage of neon orange slices upward between one piece of untreated canvas and a large blue rectangle, before curling around the edge of the painting.
Rommel’s balancing of texture and color reverberate across the other, more intimately-scaled works on view. New Grip (2022), the subdued painting that opens the show, is rendered in a single color. Raised lines thread under the paint like veins, softening its forest green hue. Though Rommel’s monochromatic treatment in a few works explores texture and variability, such as the scumbling strokes of Left Field or the delirious red of Red Nude (2021), she is clearly also interested in the clash or compatibility of different colors. Forgiveness resembles a seascape seen through a filter, while in the tricolored China Chalet (2021), a glossy, creamy vanilla bean yellow slightly obscures a popsicle red, recalling the decor of the titular restaurant and nightclub. These two tones have the curious optical effect of making it difficult to tell if a third stripe is white or pink.
The arrangement of the works, too, seemed to have been designed with the interplay of color and texture in mind. The raised lines of the monochromatic painting New Grip, for instance, echo the trimming of the bare wall beside it. Purp (2021), meanwhile, is nestled in a nook of white-washed brick; a line in the painting which divides a sea of purple from a neon aligns with the mortar of the wall on which it hangs. Anchored by the fittingly titled Life Boat (2021), the experience of “Uncle” is like a cruise through an environment in which art and architecture are in perfect harmony. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Julia Rommel, Left Field, 2021, Oil on linen, 37 ½ × 66 ¼ inches. Courtesy of the artist and Bureau, New York. Photography by Dario Lasagni.