Purple Magazine
— The New York issue #39 S/S 2023

Jamian Juliano-Villani



OLIVIER ZAHM — So, how did you end up living in New York?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — I’m from New Jersey, so I’ve been coming here forever on the train. I come from where they filmed The Sopranos, Basking Ridge, which is a very WASPy, nice country-club kind of bull-shit area.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you mean it’s weird and artificial?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — We were the only people with a vowel in their last names in town. No one came to our house on Halloween because they thought we were in the mob.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I’ve always wanted to do a fashion shoot in one of those residential areas.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — You should do it in Deal, New Jersey. Do you know Deal?


JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — It’s all artificial. It’s all fake palm trees and barren lawns, like it’s the end of the world meets Barbie; essentially it’s a runway of seizure-like architectural mash-ups.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Fake luxury.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Oh, don’t even get me started on the fake… I should have worn my fake Balenciaga jacket. Speaking of fake rich, my parents have stone lions in front of their house. My mom decorates them for the holidays.

OLIVIER ZAHM — That’s fun. Tell us more.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — My parents have a silk-screen factory, a t-shirt factory. That’s what that painting’s of. I grew up in an upper-middle-class house. I’m a twin. My family runs the business together, and I try to stay the fuck out of it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is it successful?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — T-shirts. It’s the coolest goddamn thing. If I didn’t have to work with them, I would totally take over that business because it’s so easy to make merchandise.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you used to come to New York all the time to escape?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — To buy records. Music dork. Total loser. We were total music losers together in high school. I was also the cheerleading captain and the school mascot (the devil). Anyway, back to merchandise. I love it. We made these Mike Kelley hoodies that are awesome.

OLIVIER ZAHM — At your family’s factory?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — And they were late. I was like, “Dude, what the fuck?” My dad was supposed to pull up last minute in his Maserati, selling hot t-shirts out of the trunk of his car, in Montauk. Look at the back, though.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, a Mike Kelley t-shirt. Is he one of your favorite artists?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yeah, has to be. I mean, everyone likes Mike Kelley. He would take something that could be considered garbage and elevate it to the point where people started respecting it. And that’s a real concept. He could do anything with anything. Same with Andy Warhol — he elevated garbage to the point where it becomes something else. I mean Warhol, obviously, because it’s factory shit. So, that’s kind of where I’m going right now.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, Mike Kelley, Warhol, who else?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Mario Merz is great. Ashley Bickerton. We did a show with him at our gallery. We’re like family. We love him. We are actually planning on visiting him in Bali because he’s sick right now — ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis]. Your whole body breaks down. You become paralyzed. You can hardly breathe or talk anymore. He was so hot and so young and really cool. And brilliant. We hung out with him every day. I talked to him every day on the phone for three hours until he couldn’t talk anymore.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I love that you had this intimate connection with Ashley Bicker- ton at the end of his life.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — I learned so much from talking to him. His brain was so big. I can’t imagine being trapped in your body, being able to totally think but not being able to do anything. I can’t even talk about it. We were family. You should see the show we did. We have a very meaningful relationship. The show was amazing. It was like a mini-retrospective of Ashley Bickerton, but also full of many good artists that are underrated. Leonid Lamm, do you know his work? A Russian guy. Really cool ’70s conceptual shit. I went a lot to the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University — it shows a lot of conceptual Soviet stuff, Fluxus, etc.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you go to art school?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yes, Rutgers. Can you imagine? Robert Smithson was there, and Alice Aycock. I was taught by writers like John Yau and Fluxus artists.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you have a very free approach to painting and art.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — It has to be. [Shows work] You see, here’s the Mike Kelley reference, and this is the painting. It’s like 50 horses, right?

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, it’s not even pop culture. It’s more references to old advertising, no?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yes, a hundred percent. I grew up with logos and symbols looking at t-shirts being printed over and over again. And I’ve said this in so many interviews, but if something is good enough to have one life, why can’t it have five? People have a short attention span; a lot of things go unnoticed. And my specialty is finding those things and then bringing them to a democratic platform… It’s that simple. It’s just finding the right images.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, what kind of visual materials do you select for your work?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — It’s literally Shutterstock. And it’s funny, I was looking at all these old Playboys, and they have so many amazing, simple images that translate really well. I’m like: this is all selective editing. Aggressively…

OLIVIER ZAHM — But subversive?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yeah. Like, the napkin one’s really… I mean, look at this. It’s, like, 10 feet. I have to stretch it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — That’s a great one.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you paint quickly?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — I can paint it in a day.


JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yeah, dude. If I need to. All my best paintings are done in an hour or two. It’s honestly just how excited you are that gauges how good the painting’s going to be. And these things have a shelf life. That’s why I have 50 boxes of this shit in there. And in a week, if I don’t like it…

OLIVIER ZAHM — And you don’t have any assistants to help you paint?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Not really, no. I used to, but I like being alone now.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you’re the new Damien Hirst?


OLIVIER ZAHM — What else are you working on?
JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Our next show is Gelitin.

OLIVIER ZAHM — They’re still working together?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yes. It’s going to be insane.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, that’s a new iteration of O’Flaherty’s?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yeah. I mean, this shit needs to keep going. My dream show is an Alex Katz/ Matthew Barney collaborative show.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How do you deal with this double identity of artist and gallerist?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — I don’t have any boundaries in general, so I don’t know when to turn the shit off. Everything is work. But it’s cool. I love it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Everything is art?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — That’s the problem with being an artist. You can’t date people. You can’t do shit. You’re so dedicated to this stuff — it never ends. And other people just don’t get it. And if we sound like narcissists, it’s because we are, duh. So, get with it, or get the fuck out.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And everything is also commerce?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yes, everything. Everything’s visual, unless you’re blind. So, everything is potentially workable. You could fuck with anything. That’s why it’s overwhelming, but that’s also why I like the stupid structure that I set up for myself. It’s my way.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, in New York, there’s still that feeling that anything is possible?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — It is! That’s the whole thing. Everyone forgets that everything’s possible in New York. You can do whatever you want. Hello! That’s why I get so frustrated with people. It’s like, “You just make a fucking phone call sometimes and keep kissing ass, keep talking to the right people.” I’m a business person. It’s in my blood. And anyone could do it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Business and art. It’s still Andy Warhol’s New York.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — It’s just about having the balls to do so. I’m five feet one, and I have no teeth, so if I can do it, everyone’s fine. And I’m wearing a fake ponytail.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What’s your view on living in New York these days?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — It’s cool. We did this show called “The Patriot.” Basically we did an open call, which is the worst thing you could possibly do… We had no idea that everyone would bring art. There were 1,128 people in the show. It looked fucking crazy.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And is your gallery project doing well financially? Or is it totally underground?

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Yeah! We didn’t even try, but unfortunately we actually made some money. And that’s the thing: when we do shows, we never think about making money because it’s going to suck if you do. This is what I realized, being an artist first, do- ing this shit for a while — I totally see the whole picture. We have dedicated chunks of time where we have no plan, so actually something fucked-up happens. The second you start worrying about money, it becomes about money.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, it’s a good moment for New York and for yourself right now. So many possibilities.

JAMIAN JULIANO-VILLANI — Confidence is key. That’s what I’m realizing. The second I feel nervous, it’s over. But beta-blockers are very important. Have you guys ever tried them? Game changer. Not habit-forming, and you can get it from any doctor. They give it to people for high cholesterol, but it’s also meant for performance anxiety when you give a speech. Even for Hinge dates, you can take 10 of them, and you won’t die. You can drink on them. It’s amazing. I would take them for big meetings. It’s better than ketamine. What are you going to do? Snort ketamine all day? I’ve tried it, trust me. This is way cooler — it really changed my shit.


[Table of contents]

The New York issue #39 S/S 2023

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