Mining from the expanses of popular culture, Julia Wachtel is best known for paintings that actively unsettle our vast visual vocabulary. An ongoing format for her work involves repeating recognisable images into compositions which position the frivolous, the significant, and the non-descript in unprioritised succession. In Untitled (Body Builder) (1989) a screen-printed image of a teenage man flexing his muscles is doubled and butted up against a hand-painted but equally appropriated image of a geeky greetings card character waving to us. With his androgynous face, patched trousers, rubbish dump hair and elongated shoes he's an approachable clown, offering an open-ended juxtaposition to the Nike clad body builder. More recently, Wachtel has almost exclusively used imagery drawn from the internet, and repeatedly turned to representations used in advertising and the media, in what the artist describes as acts of “reclamation.”
She has had solo exhibitions at Cleveland Museum of Art, Bergen Kunsthall, Centre d'Art Contemporain in Troyes, and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Saatchi Gallery in London, Migros Museum in Zurich, London’s Institute for Contemporary Art, The Artist’s Institute in London, the Louvre, the Whitney, PS1, the Brooklyn Museum, and FRAC Poîtou-Charentes in Angoulême, among many other institutions.