Rising to prominence in the early 1980s, Julia Wachtel focuses her artistic practice on the visual language of mass culture. The first institutional solo exhibition in 20 years, Julia Wachtel featured the works for which she became known as well as more recent paintings.
Influenced by her Pictures Generation counterparts and the 1960s protagonists of Pop Art, Wachtel appropriates popular imagery to critique an increasingly media-saturated society. Her use of newspaper and magazine photography has given way to employing images now primarily culled from the Internet, making her paintings more relevant than ever. By juxtaposing grotesque and irritating painted cartoon characters with images of pop stars, nuclear power plants, and masks from so-called “primitive cultures”, Wachtel’s artwork grapples with the function and significance of images in modern society and the socio-political landscape of our time.
A catalogue was published by the Cleveland Museum of Art (distributed by Yale University Press) in conjunction with the exhibition and featured 45 color plates of her artwork from the 1980s through today, essays by curator Reto Thüring and poet and critic Quinn Latimer, as well as a conversation between Wachtel and curator Johanna Burton.