JoAnn Ugolini’s paintings and collages are a lifelong meditation on the relationship between gesture and meaning, simultaneously affirming and undoing. Focus is on both the breakup and building of layers, interrupted and interspersed, reflecting the contradictions and ambiguities of everyday life.
Collages are constructed from fragments of paintings or Roman posters pulled from contemporary Roman walls. Fragments are pasted one over another, building strata of time and language, interrupted messages, suggestions of images, and spontaneous fields of color.
Over the years, these collages have become denser, the torn pieces smaller, and the surfaces entirely rebuilt. The latest work from this series, I never agreed to cooperate, is a 24 by 24 by 1.5-inch collage made up of thousands of tiny pieces of torn posters.
About a year ago, she began a graphic memoir, My Life as a White Person. “I am a white person in a country that puts black people’s lives at risk every day. My goal in this work is to reexamine and represent in my art my relationship with this critical aspect of our culture.”
In the spring of 2017, she stopped using posters as material and began making collages from torn pieces of her own paintings. Some of these paintings remained intact. From the same space as the memoir, the titles of these series appeared: my life as a white person, I never swam in the olympics, you can’t have everything you want, etc. Some of this work and excerpts from the memoir are presented in the current exhibit, My Life as a White Person, at Barbara Anderson Gallery in Berkeley.
As part of a collaborative Artist’s Book, S E C O N D Language, with poet, Kathleen Fraser, Ugolini produced a series of collages while working as a visiting artist in a shared studio at the American Academy in Rome. The original book is in the Special Collections at the Beinecke Library (Yale University).