Julia Fish’s Architectural Abstractions Are Joyful Enigmas

Julia Fish, “Score for Threshold, SouthEast – Two [ spectrum in violet ]” (2020-2022), oil on canvas, 23 x 18 inches (all images courtesy the Artist and David Nolan Gallery)

I did not begin following Julia Fish’s work until after she and her husband, the sculptor Richard Rezac, moved into a two-story brick storefront on Hermitage Street in Chicago, designed by Theodore Steuben and built in 1922. In 1992, Fish began contemplating the particulars of her physical environment — her home and studio — starting with the milky white hexagonal tiles in the entryway, which connected the house to both the building’s interior and the outside world, to here and there. Fish’s acts of slow, concentrated looking, and of reflecting upon what she has seen — whether it is the aura of the light extending beyond its hexagonal glass fixture or the building’s siding — became recurring themes in her work. What has changed in it is the relationship between the paint and the references. 

In her early work, in which she responded to the tiles in her entryway, Fish would make a drawing based on a one-to-one relationship. Over time, she began transforming her perceptions of surface, pattern, texture, light, detail, and structure into abstract signs, diagrams, and spectral light, resulting in a synthesis of geometry and evanescence.

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