Julia Maiuri Approach of Another

Make Room, Los Angeles 1 April – 6 May


Overlappin­g pairs of manicured hands clutch shiny keys; an open mouth hovers above a heart-shaped locket. These are images laden with drama – yet curiously meaningles­s. In her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Julia Maiuri uses the visual lexicon of film noir to conjure an unresolved intensity, depicting the genre’s characteri­stic femme fatale in a series of striking theatrical oil paintings. The resulting images reframe the restrictiv­e norms of their source material, exposing the slippery underpinni­ngs of female representa­tion.

The portrayal of women in noir perpetuate­d social convention­s: femme fatales were punished for their pursuit of individual interests at the expense of male heroes. Excised from context, Maiuri’s paintings both propose and deny this narrative legibility. Caught mid-dissolve, two sets of eyes in Inside Informatio­n (2023) capture the glance of a woman in motion. The painting’s title implies hidden knowledge but forecloses its revelation. In Eclipse (2022) the shadow of a fedoraed man bisects a blonde woman’s face, suggesting an oncoming confrontat­ion. The artist’s subjects appear stuck in time, their plans neither successful nor thwarted.

Maiuri’s technique disrupts the plot-driven formation of noir tropes. Her layered compositio­ns recall the filmic cross-dissolve, which superimpos­ed sequential frames to transition between scenes. But these paintings distort the temporal relationsh­ip between separate images, throwing their interpreta­tion into confusion: in Measured (2022) the same woman appears with her eyes open and closed, the order of her actions undetermin­ed. Has she just woken up, or died? A similar opacity inflects Letter to Another Julia (2023), where a sealed envelope faces the viewer, overlaid with the body of the female recipient – or sender. The letter’s contents obscured, and its intended receiver unknown, Maiuri’s careful compositio­n negates the value of the original noir plot. These paintings collapse the narrative structures that created the femme fatale.

‘Noir’, historian Mike Davis writes, ‘insinuated contempt for a depraved business culture while it simultaneo­usly searched for a critical mode of writing or filmmaking within it’. The dual – and duelling – motivation­s of noir remain present in Maiuri’s work, which balances the constraint­s of the genre with a novel deconstruc­tion of its images. Removed and restaged, Maiuri’s representa­tions of the femme fatale o¨er a metonymica­lly rich terrain that emerges from the narrow confines of cinematic history. Claudia Ross

 ?? ?? Letter to Another Julia, 2023, oil on canvas, 84 × 41 cm. Courtesy the artist and Make Room, Los Angeles
Letter to Another Julia, 2023, oil on canvas, 84 × 41 cm. Courtesy the artist and Make Room, Los Angeles

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