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JULIE SPEED UNDERTOAD

FLATBED PRESS/ AUSTIN FEBRUARY 19, 2016 - April 9, 2016

RUIZ-HEALY ART/ SAN ANTONIO FEBRUARY 18, 2016 - MARCH 19, 2016

flatbedpress.com

CURATED by KATHERINE BRIMBERRY & PATRICIA RUIZ-HEALY

PHOTOGRAPHY by MARY LOU SAXON ISBN: 978-0-692-52112-0 Copyright 2015 by Julie Speed, All rights reserved detail opposite page: Hunting Season, p.7, detail front cover: Undertoad, p.11 , detail back cover: Good Friday, p.85

ruizhealyart.com


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LIST OF WORKS GOUACHE and GOUACHE & COLLAGE PAINTINGS Bear 39

ETCHINGS

(polymer gravure with gouache hand coloring)

2013 gouache & collage, 20 x 24 inches

Birdblind 9

2012 collage & gouache, 20 x 13.50 inches

Death and the Maiden 15

2014 gouache, collage & ink 40 x 60 inches

Fish Supper 45

2012 gouache & collage, 29.25 x 20.50 inches

Good Friday 85

2015 gouache & collage 29.50 x 37.50 inches

Hammerhead 71

2015 gouache & collage, 29.50 x41.50 inches

Hunting Season 7

2013 gouache & collage, 20 x 26 inches

In Flagrante 31

2013 gouache, collage & sepia ink, 40 x 58 inches

In Flagrante Again 57

2013 gouache, collage & sepia ink, 40 x 59 inches

Kunisada’s Ghosts 61

2013 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 41 inches

Man in an Iron Mask 33

Beach 48

2015 etching with chine collé & gouache, Ed. 30, image 11 x 14.50, paper 17.50 x 20.50 inches

Man with Cock 47

2015 etching with gouache & cut chine collé, Ed. 40, image 15.75 x 11.75, paper 22.75 x 17.75 inches.

Rope Burn 77

2015 2 plate etching with chine collé & gouache Ed. 30, image 16 x 22, paper 22.50 x 28 inches

Rope Burn Red 79

2015 2 plate etching with chine collé & gouache, Ed. 40, image 16 x 22, paper 22.50 x 28 inches

Sleepers 49

2015 etching with chine collé, Ed. 40, image 15.50 x 19.50, paper 22.50 x 25.50 inches

Sleepers, Cadmium 50

2015 etching with chine collé, Ed. 20, image 15.50 x 19.50, paper 22.50 x 25.50 inches

The Economists 51

2015 etching with gouache, Ed. 40, image 10 x 11.75, paper 15 x 16.25 inches

2013 found paper, iron, wood & glass eye, 12 x 10.75 inches

Manners 21

2013 gouache, 24 x 29 inches

Milky Way 27

VARIATIONS

2014 gouache, 20.50 x 29.50 inches

Missing 40

2014 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 20.50 inches

Monkeytree 65

2014 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 41 inches

Owl 87

2015 gouache & collage, 30 x 22.50 inches

Piano 32

2015 collage, gouache, postage stamp & steel, 17.25 x 13.25 x 3 inches

Pope Descending 25

2013 gouache, 16 x 20 inches

Precipice 41

Howlers, Variation I (Blue) 72 Howlers, Variation II (Pink) 72 Howlers, Variation III (Mansion) 72 Howlers, Variation IV (War) 73 Howlers, Variation V (Birds) 72 Howlers, Variation VI (Art) 72 Howlers, Variation VII (Fountain) 72

all 2011 - 2014 collage & gouache on polymer gravure etching , 14.25 x 10.75 inches Launch, Variation IV (7 White) 74

2011-2014 gouache on polymer gravure etching, 18.25 x 13.75 inches

2013 collage & gouache 20 x 16 inches

Small Sailor 17

2015 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 39.50 inches

Suzannah, Annoyed 66

2012 gouache & collage 6.25 x 7.50 inches

Launch II, Variation I (White Moth) 75

2011-2014 gouache on polymer gravure etching, 18.25 x 13.75 inches

Open Porpoise, Variation I (Ducks) 43 Open Porpoise, Variation II (Herod’s Notebook) 43

The Aestheticians 53

both 2011-2014 collage & gouache on polymer gravure etching 19.75 x 11 inches

The Navigator 23

Stoning the Witch, Variation I (Holy Father) 42 Stoning the Witch, Variation II (Mea Culpa) 42 Stoning the Witch, Variation III (Ship) 42

2011 gouache & collage on star chart, 16.50 x 16.50 inches 2013 gouache, 22 x 20 inches

The Prince 46

2012 collage & gouache, 14.75 x 9.25 inches

Undertoad 11

2015 gouache & collage, 60 x 40 inches

Untitled (Birds) 35

all 2004-2014 collage & gouache on polymer gravure etching, 11.50 x 11 inches

The Cognoscenti, Variation V (9 Blue) 67

2011 - 2014 gouache on polymer gravure etching , 11 x 9 inches

2013 gouache &collage, 32.75 x 28.25 inches

Thorn Sisters 81

2014 gouache & collage, 32 x 37.50 inches detail opposite page: Rope Burn Red, p. 79


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Undertoad Meeting artist Julie Speed for the first time, one is struck by the intensity of her gaze, looking at everything, taking everything in. For her the act of seeing seems more physical than for most of us. Her work reveals the intensity of her looking as well as her sense of wonder. Years ago when I became aware of her art, that is the quality that struck me the most. There was, of course, obvious signs of the artist’s wonderment, a fascination with the world around her, its history, myths, and its material culture. There was also my own amazement that someone was still painting in a way reminiscent of the great Northern Renaissance tradition of precise markmaking, polished surfaces, highly saturated colors, and enticing narratives, especially since painting itself had been declared dead so many years before. This art was most definitely not dead but alive and thriving, infused with the artist’s incredibly rich imagination as well as her uncanny ability to draw from numerous sources---old book illustrations, maps of the constellations, taxonomic prints---to create compositions that not only hang together in beautiful and surprising ways but fascinate and lure the viewer into taking the time to revel in their intricacies.

Speed’s work is what does it all mean? There is a physical presence to the work that draws people in; these are not works meant to be seen from across the room but rather up close, not glanced at but stared at intently. The artist wants us to look and to think about meaning, about storytelling, but there are no hard and fast answers to be had. In the post-modern tradition, the audience is not told what to think or how to interpret. The audience determines meaning; and the meaning can be different for different viewers at different times. Speed has written that when it comes to the question of how we are to interpret her works, “my thoughts, even my really, really deep thoughts, about them carry no more weight than anyone else’s.”1 Does that mean we are cast adrift like the people on the sinking boats Speed so often includes in the backgrounds of her compositions? No, not at all. We must rely on our own experiences, knowledge, and prejudices. In other words, we must rely upon what we have packed away in the cultural baggage we bring with us when we travel to Speed’s world.

What we as viewers (travelers?) must be careful to avoid is thinking that Speed's art is just about the content, the iconography instead of An exhibition that has stayed with me for many years was the form. Easily missed, because she does it so well, is the seamless called The Age of the Marvelous, organized by the Hood Art Museum at Dartmouth back in 1991. The show and its accompanying catalogue craft of her compositions. Take for example, The Aestheticians. Three women sit in a row contemplating future breast-related surgeries focused on the Renaissance phenomenon of wunderkammern, “wonwhile a group of monkeys seem to look on mockingly from above. der rooms” in which collectors would bring together objects, art, curiosities, and maps to create an encyclopedia that you could walk into The background, a constellation map, seems to suggest that even as we worry about superficial things, the earth continues to spin in a and touch. It was an attempt to recreate the world in a single room. vast universe oblivious to our concerns. (I have a lot of 17th-century Speed does very much the same thing with her paintings, collages, and prints. All the world is to be seen in her art--good and evil, heaven Dutch iconography in my baggage.) What is it, however, that makes this composition work so beautifully on a formal level? Look at how and earth, the ridiculous and the sublime, the ugly and the beautiful, carefully it is constructed. The three women are cut out from a found the known and the unknowable. engraving to which Speed added gouache drawings of the scalpel, Of course, the question that arises time and time again with

1 Julie Speed, “Tracking,” in Speed Art 2003-2009. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009, p. 179


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the scissors, and the pink-nippled breast. A perfectly graceful c-curve is created by the scalpel pointing towards the breast and then continuing on through the blades of the scissors. This c-curve is then perfectly bisected by a strong diagonal suggested by the intense gaze of the monkeys above. Collage is supremely important to Speed’s practice because she often works with paper cut-outs and other collage elements, moving them around on the surface of one of her works, to determine their precisely correct location. Getting it right is of utmost importance to the artist. Speed has written of her art that “composition comes first.”2 So it is not just a matter of finding interesting but random bits of paper and gluing them together. Rather, there is often a bit of trial and error before Speed reaches that point when the composition just works. When asked about starting to create The Aestheticians if it was difficult to begin attaching collage elements to the constellation map, a prized gift from a friend, she answered “of course!”3 Speed just has the ability to make it look easy. In addition to how the artist constructs compositions using tight geometries and balanced forms, she also follows certain rules when creating her collages. For instance, though she has a vast store of bits of found and printed papers gathered over the decades, she cannot always find exactly what she’s looking for. Often, a found bit of paper doesn’t work because it is not the right scale. One of Speed’s rules is that she must use the paper as she found it, so there is no scaling up or down. If a collage element doesn’t work, the artist must replace it, or else find a different way forward. For instance, in her gouache & collage work, Undertoad, a beehive image wasn’t quite working out, so she painted a skull in its place.

As much as Julie Speed enjoys playing with visual elements in her work, it is no surprise that she also enjoys playing with language. A crack Scrabble player, she is fascinated by words and often makes sly references in her titles. In 2003, for instance, she created a suite of collages titled The Murder of Kasimir Malevich. The great Russian modernist was not, of course, murdered; “murder” is a term of venery, or a collective noun for a group of crows, the very crows that inhabit Speed’s Malevich suite. One night before a game of Scrabble in which I was handily defeated, Speed and I realized that we both had an interesting relationship with the cautionary word "undertow." When I was a young child I had always thought that my elders were yelling at me to "be careful of the undertoad"4 while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Speed's mother told her a story of how hundreds of people had perished because they hadn't heeded an undertow warning. So, for me, the misheard word was, as Speed noted, a "comic memento mori."5 For her the warning was perhaps a bit darker, representing the universal undercurrent we all live with, an ever-present and persistent reminder of our mortality. Speed titled her 2015 collage Undertoad without knowing this shared history. The image, however, can be seen as a paradox of living with the knowledge that the grim reaper is maybe lurking nearby. The toad at the lower center of the composition is symbolic of this lurking self-awareness, the undertoad. The tree above, whose branches and roots really hold the composition together almost like an arbol de la vida, is inhabited by birds, one of whom is about to poke death in the eye with a stick; this small yet hopeful act of defiance is perhaps what we all do when we live to see another day and persist in doing what we do, like making wonderful art.

Lyle W. Williams

Curator of Prints & Drawings - The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio 2 Ibid., p. 179.

3Author’s interview with the artist, Marfa, Texas, July 30, 2015.

4 The phrase is also mentioned in John Irving’s The World According to Garp.

5 Julie Speed, email message to the author, August 12, 2015.


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Hunting Season

2013 gouache & collage, 20 x 26 inches


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Birdblind

2012 collage & gouache, 20 x 13.50 inches


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Undertoad

2015 gouache & collage, 60 x 40 inches


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Death and the Maiden

2014 gouache, collage & ink 40 x 60 inches


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Small Sailor

2015 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 39.50 inches


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Manners

2013 gouache, 24 x 29 inches


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The Navigator

2013 gouache, 22 x 20 inches


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Pope Descending

2013 gouache, 16 x 20 inches


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Milky Way

2014 gouache, 20.50 x 29.50 inches


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In Flagrante

2013 gouache, collage & sepia ink, 40 x 58 inches


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Piano

2015 collage, gouache, postage stamp & steel, 17.25 x 13.25 x 3 inches


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Man in an Iron Mask

2013 found paper, iron, wood & glass eye, 12 x 10.75 inches


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Untitled (Birds)

2013 gouache & collage, 32.75 x 28.25 inches


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Bear

2013 gouache & collage, 20 x 24 inches


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Missing

2014 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 20.50 inches

Precipice

2013 collage & gouache 20 x 16 inches


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Stoning the Witch, Variation III (Ship)

2004- 2014 etching, collage & gouache, 11.50 x 11 inches

Stoning the Witch, Variation I (Holy Father)

2004- 2014 etching, collage & gouache, 11.50 x 11 inches

Stoning the Witch, Variation II (Mea Culpa) 2004-2014 etching & collage, 11.50 x 11 inches


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Open Porpoise, Variation I (Ducks)

polymer gravure etching with collage & gouache 19.75 x 11 inches

Open Porpoise, Variation II (Herod’s Notebook) polymer gravure etching with collage & gouache 19.75 x 11 inches


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Fish Supper

2012 gouache & collage, 29.25 x 20.50 inches


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The Prince

2012 collage & gouache, 14.75 x 9.25 inches


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Man with Cock

2015 polymer gravure etching with cut chine collĂŠ & gouache, Ed. 40, image 15.75 x 11.75, paper 22.25 x 17.75 inches


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Beach

2015 polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ & gouache, Ed. 30, image 11 x 14.50, paper 17.50 x 20.50 inches


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Sleepers

2015 polymer gravure etching with handmade natural Kitikata chine collĂŠ, Ed. 40, image 15.50 x 19.50, paper 22.50 x 25.50 inches


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Sleepers, Cadmium

2015 polymer gravure etching with handmade green Kitikata chine collĂŠ, Ed. 20, image 15.50 x 19.50, paper 22.50 x 25.50 inches


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The Economists

2015 polymer gravure etching with gouache, Ed. 40, image 10 x 11.75, paper 15 x 16.25 inches


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The Aestheticians

2011 collage & gouache on star chart, 16.50 x 16.50 inches


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In Flagrante Again

2013 gouache, collage & sepia ink, 40 x 59 inches


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Kunisada’s Ghosts

2013 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 41 inches


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Monkeytree

2014 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 41 inches


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Suzannah, Annoyed

2012 collage & gouache, 6.25 x 7.50 inches


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The Cognoscenti, Variation V (9 Blue) 2011 - 2014 polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ & gouache, 11 x 9 inches


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Hammerhead

2015 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 41.50 inches


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Howlers, Variation I (Blue)

Howlers, Variation II (Pink)

Howlers, Variation III (Mansion)

Howlers, Variation V (Birds)

Howlers, Variation VI (Art)

Howlers, Variation VII (Fountain)


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Howlers, Variation IV (War)

2011 - 2014 collage & gouache on polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ , 14.25 x 10.75 inches


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Launch, Variation IV (7 White)

2011-2014 polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ & gouache image 18.25 X 13.75, paper 27.50 x 22.50 inches


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Launch II, Variation I (White Moth)

2011-2014 polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ & gouache image 18.25 x 13.75 paper 26.50 x 22 inches


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Rope Burn

2015 polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ & gouache, Ed. 30, image 16 x 22, paper 22.50 x 28 inches


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Rope Burn Red

2015 polymer gravure etching with chine collĂŠ & gouache, Ed. 40, image 16 x 22, paper 22.50 x 28 inches


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Thorn Sisters

2014 gouache & collage, 32 x 37.50 inches


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Good Friday

2015 gouache & collage, 29.50 x 37.50 inches


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Owl

2015 gouache & collage, 30 x 22.50 inches


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UNDERTOAD - JULIE SPEED  

88 page catalog to accompany traveling exhibition of gouache & collage paintings, collages, boxes and polymer gravure etchings by Julie Spee...

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