Julie Curtiss and the Confounding “Bitter Apples” of Life

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White Cube, Hong Kong // September 21, 2023 – November 11, 2023

Julie Curtiss could be a mystery writer. She’s has a sense of a scene, what to leave out, what to express, where to express it, what details to leave behind that it feels so much like the brain of a writer. Her work, although evocative of eras past where mystery perhaps was just a little bit more attainable, also feels very present. Her Fall 2021 cover story, in particular, was the an exemplary example of our times, but with a nostalgia and method of surrealism, woodblock printing, silent film and even a little comic book. She told us in 2021, “I want people to still have room to project some of their lead experiences or some of their inner world into my work, and I want to provide enough ambiguity that portrays how ideas are often complementary. I’m more interested in paradox, and in how things can reverse in one second. Something that’s too political in the classic sense just doesn’t allow for that shift.” 

In her new show, Bitter Apples, at White Cube in Hong Kong, the works are all about these moments of “bafflement and misdirection,” whether in relationships, sex, mundane daily tasks or just the consequences of life that we can’t quite pinpoint as absurd but illuminate a sense of wonder and questioning. But they are also funny. There is humor in the absurdity. What Curtiss says of this show, “At the heart of my interest is how nature and culture relate, the balance between our wild side and our domesticated side. And the weirdness of it all.” Her move from NYC to Florida could be a reasoning for the change in the subject matter, but she has always been with humor, and how the female character in her works always finds themselves in this predicaments of “huh?”. 

That is why I love Julie’s work so much. It’s the “huh?” that life gives us, that it continues to spark in our minds if we continue to pay attention. She’s a brilliant playmaker, an old soul with a modern eye. —Evan Pricco

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