The Paintings of Julien Nguyen
Julien Nguyen’s work is firmly situated in the academics of art history and its philosophies as well as the informalities of everyday life; his images are often populated with fellow artists, lovers and friends who have posed for him in his Los Angeles studio. A history enthusiast, Nguyen uses the past as a lens through which he views, analyzes, and recreates the present moment. He harmoniously blends iconographic images, such as Renaissance altarpieces, with more contemporary components, such as video-game graphics, to create tableaux of lavish colors and delicate forms that speak to his personal life.
Nguyen works consistently in his studio to develop a more traditional studio practice, as well as, further improve his skills and techniques. He works in oil paints and tempera on a variety of substrates including canvas and linen, wood panel, and copper and aluminum sheets. Besides tableaux with posed acquaintances, Nguyen has produced carefully planned, complicated devotional images of traditional subjects such as Saint John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, and the Temptation of Christ.
In addition to his paintings, Julien Nguyen has collaborated with designers in the fashion field. He first worked with Cosima Gadient and Christa Bösch, the founders of the avant-garde fashion label Ottolinger. The designers’ 2017 Fall collection was based on Nguyen’s painting “The Baptism”, which shows a young man being baptized in a silvery river. The Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe partnered with Nguyen for its Fall/Winter 2023 Paris Fashion Week show that was held in January of that year. He created three artworks for Loewe: a miniature watercolor on vellum, done in the style of Elizabethan portraitist Nicholas Hilliard, which depicted his muse Nikos decorated with messages and symbols, and two digital artworks that featured Nikos in a Paris hotel. The watercolor miniature was the feature image on the show’s invitation.
Two works by Nguyen, “Executive Function” and “Executive Solutions”, which depicted nymphs and demons on the front page of The New York Times, were included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York City. He had solo exhibitions at Munich’s Kunstverein München in 2014, New York’s Swiss Institute in 2018, and Cincinnati’s Comtemporary Art Center in 2019.
Julien Nguyen participated in a group show, titled “Positioner”, from October through December at the Matthew Marks Gallery in Los Angeles in 2018. He had his first major solo exhibition, titled “Pictures of a Floating World”, from June to August in 2021 at the Matthew Marks Galllery in the Chelsea district of New York City. Nguyen’s next solo exhibition at the Matthew Marks Gallery will be in Los Angeles from June 24 to August 12 in 2023. This will be his first one-person show in Los Angeles in seven years; it will feature fourteen new paintings and works on paper.
“(Julien Nguyen) achieves what few artists manage, the acceptance that nothing is new and nothing lasts, that we inhabit a world built beautifully from the rubble of other worlds, and that is is here we make our stand.” —Travis Diehl
Note: Julien Nguyen’s painting “Semper Solus” was up for auction at Sotheby’s in October of 2022. After receiving fourteen bids, the oil and tempera on wood panel portrait sold for 453,600 Pounds (503 723 US Dollars).
Further information on Julien Nguyen’s 2023 Los Angeles exhibition can be found at the online site of the Matthew Marks Gallery located at: https://matthewmarks.com/exhibitions/current
Second Insert Image: Julien Nguyen, “Study for the Temptation of Christ”, 2019, Oil on Panel, 62.2 x 52 cm, Private Collection
Bottom Insert Image: Julien Nguyen, “Hic Manebimus Optime”, 2021, Oil on Linen on Panel, 51 x 41 cm, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York