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Julia Jacquette
The Table Setting
(Room Service)
1996


julia jacquette
at holly solomon


by Berta Sichel
Julia Jacquette's first solo show in a New 

York gallery is a success story. Thirty-one 

years old and until now only a name in the 

alternative art circuit, she is capable of 

juggling the ideas of desire and 

indecision, and of keeping both in the air. 

Jacquette creates visually seductive 

enamel-on-wood square panels, no larger 

than 32 x 32 in., that display tempting 

foods, lacy wedding dresses, perfectly 

manicured hands adorned with expensive 

jewelry, and elegant vases of red roses. 

To these most feminine of images she adds 

brief texts. Resembling drawings in old-

fashioned cookbooks or handmade bakery 

signs, the paintings are tinted with 

tragedy and humor--ultimately her own 

sense of humor, flirting with seduction 

and repulsion, simultaneously.


Adopting a provocatively ironic stance 

towards these icons of unliberation, 

Jacquette's work opens up the paradox of 

our unending menu of desires--cravings 

never satisfied even when indulged. Should 

I eat or not? Should I get married or not? 

Should I have beautiful hands and diamond 

rings? Should my skin be smooth and silky?


Do these compulsions seem nonsensical? 

Perhaps, but what is often forgotten is 

that this useless behavior is already 

imprinted in our modern psychological 

blueprint. Through a charming, dulcet yet 

conceptually guided work, Jacquette's 

images continually remind us of this vain, 

but commonplace, conduct.


With the exception of the two works in 

which all the messages are compressed into 

a single panel, such as The Table Setting 

(Room Service), the narrative develops 

through her arrangement of the panels, 

numbering from four to twelve. Influenced by 

poetry, she writes simply and directly, 

hoping that the straightforward sentences 

have a demanding meaning.


In Taste Your Mouth, for example, each of 

the twelve 14 x 14 in. panels depict 

different desserts: strawberry cake, 

chocolate tart, ice cream, fruit salad and 

other perverse temptations in a fat-free 

world. Each panel contains a word, and when 

combined, they read: "I Want to Know What it is 

Like to Taste Your Mouth."


Jacquette's work does not have the critical 

punch nor the didactic sense common in the 

work of contemporary women artists like 

Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer. Yet, she 

clearly wants it to be inserted in the 

current language of feminism. As many other 

women artists of her generation who came 

to age when feminist art had already 

spent a great deal of energy criticizing 

masculinity, Jacquette eschews preachiness. 

She is looking for what is beyond the 

standard feminist narratives and practices 

in contemporary art. Between the vivacity 

of the images and her tensioned context, 

she has, in this exhibition, indeed, 

succeeded in this and her other intentions. 

Would she be satisfied?




BERTA SICHEL is an art writer and 

independent curator. She teaches at the New 

School for Social Research.