JULIA KUNIN’s (b. 1961, Vermont, US) otherworldly and often semi-figurative forms have sensual iridescent surfaces that are even more animated with the introduction of light. Her ceramic sculptures embrace the scientific, natural, and geological in form, but her use of rare Hungarian glazes reference the opulence of the baroque. Some works bring to mind mystical scholar’s rocks, volcanic formations, and pelagic ocean floors. Visually, the luster glazes expand Kunin's idea of the burlesque, that is, to take something ordinary, even grotesque, and transform it into something spectacular. The molecular shift that occurs in the kiln combines heavy metals and results in a reaction akin to raku, depositing a final layer of shine – the fuming, oil-spill rainbow effect – on the work’s surface.
Kunin’s influences include the 16th century French ceramicist Bernard Pilassy, who made platters resembling ponds and used direct casts of animals and plants, as well as objects found in a Renaissance Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities where rare and fantastical items such as crafted coral were displayed.
Kunin lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Pecs, Hungary where she conducts research and develops new work. She received her BA from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. She has exhibited extensively in Europe as well as the United States. Kunin was a Fulbright Scholar to Hungary in 2013. She is the recipient of a 2010 Trust for Mutual Understanding Grant to Hungary. In 2008 she received the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and had a residency at Art Omi. In 2007 she received the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Artist Residency. Fellowships have included: MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire; Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, Colorado Springs, Colorado; CEC Artslink grant to The Republic of Georgia; Bellevuesaal Residency in Wiesbaden, Germany; Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York; Millay Colony, New York; Vermont Studio Center, Vermont; Core Program at the Glassell School of Art, Houston, Texas; and Skowhegan Residency, Maine. Her work has been featured in ARTnews, House and Garden, the Brooklyn Rail, and in Harmony Hammond’s book Lesbian Art in America (Rizzoli, 2000).
Solo exhibitions include Les Guérillères at Sandra Gering Inc, New York (2015); Golden Grove at Barry Whistler Gallery, Dallas, Texas (2013); Nightwood at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York (2012); and Crimson Blossom at the Deutches Leder Museum in Offenbach, Germany (2002); among others. Kunin’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Museum of Applied Art and Design, Frankfurt, Germany; Sculpture Center, New York; Brattleboro Museum, Vermont; and in McClain Gallery’s 2018 exhibition re:construction. Her work is part of the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; German Leather Museum, Offenbach, Germany; the Margulies Collection, Miami, Florida; and the Museum of Art and Design, New York. Kunin had her first solo exhibition, Rainbow Dream Machine, at McClain Gallery in 2020.