The Stick

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TIS Books, 2021. First edition.
Softcover with foil stamp and silver ink, 92 pp., 41 b/w and 15 color illustrations, 190 x 240 mm. Photographs by Justine Kurland. Paintings by Bruce Kurland. Poems by Lisa Jarnot. Design by Carl Wooley.

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2021 by Gabriela Cendoya, Myrto Steirou, Jason Fulford

"The Stick is a deep & mysterious book about a daughter and her father. The images are rich w/ layered meanings, and the sequence is perfect. Overlapping motifs hold together the disparate elements and create a mood that is both calm and intense." Jason Fulford

The Stick weaves together Justine Kurland’s latest series of searingly intimate black-and-white photographs with her late father Bruce Kurland’s still life paintings. The two bodies of work—punctuated by poems by Lisa Jarnot, a former lover of Bruce Kurland’s—enact a new kind of family album, full of strange relics and mercurial artistry that link father and daughter. Boarded-up windows, a pregnant dog, chewing gum vulvas, and a former partner’s strap-on are in conversation with Bruce Kurland’s surreal compositional inventions—flowering branches draped with strips of raw bacon, a ripe cleaved peach seemingly levitating against a blue wall, and dematerialized birds dangling in space. Seen in tandem, the photographs take on the dreamlike uncanniness of the paintings and the symbolism of the still lifes finds embodied sensuality in the photographs.

Justine Kurland’s work in The Stick is the first she has published since selling her van four years ago and renouncing the road trips she is known for. This series unfolds across her apartment in New York City, her hometown of Fulton, New York, and her mother’s home in rural Virginia. Kurland invaginates fragments of this life with allusions to the work of Carolee Schneemann, Betty Tompkins, Judy Chicago, Hannah Wilke, and Emily Roysdon. Three of her father’s paintings—a diminutive portrait of himself wearing a pot as a hat, a likeness of Justine Kurland’s mother, and his final self-portrait before his death—appear in her work, linking disparate slices of life, spaces that are and were once called home, and notions of family across time and place.

Bruce Kurland (1938–2013) studied at the Arts Students League and the National Academy School of Fine Arts in New York City. A retrospective of his work, Bruce Kurland: Insight into Still Life, was organized by the Burchfield Center for Western New York Art in 1983. His work is held in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Justine Kurland (b. 1969) studied at the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. Her work has been on view in recent exhibitions at Higher Pictures Generation, New York; UB Art Galleries, Buffalo, NY; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Her work is in the public collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

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