Painting Restraint: Julie Alpert’s Boundary at SOIL
Seattle artist Julie Alpert has a penchant for pushing ideas between the second and third dimension. Her installations often merge large scale, graphic murals with physical objects to create immersive, painted mashups that exist somewhere between contemporary surrealism and a utopic built environment. In her newest set of watercolors at SOIL, Alpert distills her hyper-saturated scenes into seventeen modest paintings that stretch and contract within their postcard-sized confines. The painted mounds seep across their surfaces, building an intricate collision of techniques and mediums within the smallest of spaces. - Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor
Julie Alpert | Black Pattern Watercolor #4. 2013. Watercolor and permanent marker on paper. 7.5” x 8.5”. Image courtesy of the artist.
While Alpert consistently integrates smaller scaled watercolors into her practice, her new, black pattern works lead with abstraction and form, conveying a sense of experimentation rather than finality. Evoking the mediums of Modernist artist Sonia Delaunay, Alpert moves interrelated imagery between wall coverings, furniture, textiles, and painting; in addition to the watercolors, Boundary includes a domestic installation comprised of a graphic mural, several wall panels and a paper lamp coated similarly in hand painted patterns. While the installation dominates in scale, the seventeen watercolors serve as small portals into the more formal, painterly pursuits that underlay the artist’s larger, pop-scaled installation details: evolving scratches of negative space become the wallpaper pattern, meandering black webs become the room’s shiny centerpiece.
Julie Alpert | Black Pattern Watercolor #2. 2013. Watercolor, ink, and permanent marker on paper. 10” x 7.5”. Image courtesy of the artist.
Independently, the watercolors inhabit a separate, more restrictive space with limitations that force explorations with greater depth. References to conventional domesticity that overlap with the installation persist through the repetitive patterns and nostalgic color schemes, but the artist’s play with form is the most captivating aspect of the paintings. Alpert’s vibrant clouds shift their weight and angles like a dancer beneath a sheath of fabric, mapping out the way opposing details visually synthesize and interplay within the tiny scenes. Watercolor #8 practices a delicate duet of balance while Watercolor #3 interjects sweeping flourishes and lighter embellishments around its weighty mass.
Julie Alpert | Black Pattern Watercolor #8. 2013. Watercolor, ink, and permanent marker on paper. 10” x 7.5”. Image courtesy of the artist.
Julie Alpert | Black Pattern Watercolor #3. 2013. Watercolor, ink, and permanent marker on paper. 9” x 9”. Image courtesy of the artist.
Watercolor’s inherent lightness makes it an unlikely suspect for explorations of forms and mass. This limitation enables Alpert’s signature patterns to take center stage, functioning as the primary medium for the structures she builds. The patterns ultimately create the sense of movement and restraint that pulsates so vibrantly across her watercolors, negotiating the boundaries of their abstracted spaces and determining their placement in the right dimension.
Julie Alpert | Black Pattern Watercolor #6. 2013. Watercolor, ink, and permanent marker on paper. 8.5” x 7.5”. Image courtesy of the artist.
Boundary is on view at SOIL in Seattle, WA through April 27.
Julie Alpert lives and works in Seattle, WA. She received a BA in painting from the University of Maryland and an MFA in painting from the University of Washington. Her work has recently been featured at Gallery 4Culture (Seattle, WA), the Telephone Room Gallery (Tacoma, WA) and at Sea-Tac International Airport. She is the recipient of a 2012 Pollock Krasner Grant.
Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Manager of Adult Public Programs at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).