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The Grid Project:

In 1996,  Julian had decided to accept the position as Chair of the Illustration Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). For over twenty years, he had been working as a successful freelance illustrator, drawing and painting, constantly under deadline, creating hundreds of illustrations. So, when it was time for him to move from the 2500 sq. ft loft on Walker Street, in New York City’s TriBeCa district where he had been living since the mid-seventies, he faced the daunting task of clearing the bulging flat files in which he had been storing his work all along. Drawers upon drawers of hundreds of illustrations, large, small, black & white, color—prized pieces mixed with the bread and butter jobs. 

It was time to move,  it was time to lighten the load. As Julian began to go through the work, he first adopted a ruthless attitude. “Everything but my favorites go into the trash…keep…garbage…keep…keep…garbage…” After a while, though, he noticed that often there was a portion of painting,  a detail,  a face,  the way the light was rendered on a curtain,  that he liked, that was worth keeping. He decided to save these portions of the illustrations and throw out the rest. He found a small portfolio that had sleeves measuring 5 1/4” x 7 1/2”.  This would be it. He began cutting and filling the sleeves, before long creating several small ‘books’ which contained page after page of details. 

They were stunning!  The skill, the humor, the random snippets of our world; its celebrities; its current events; all significant details assembled over the last twenty years.

In 1997,  MICA presented a gallery exhibit of Julian’s art to give his new community a chance to get acquainted with his work. This was his first opportunity to frame and display his ‘Grid Project’ as he decided to name it.  I remember how we had all the ‘grid’ sections laid out, moving and adjusting them until the perfect balance was found. Julian was thrilled.  When we were done,  the first two grids were completed.  Once again, they were stunning.

When Julian was ill, nearing the end of his life, I asked him if I could have his permission to continue the ‘Grid Project.’ He gave me his blessing to continue.

Years have passed since Julian’s passing and here we are at last—the ‘Grid Project’ page of Julian’s web site. It is time for the Grids to come to life, to move out of their storage boxes where they have been patiently waiting.

Victoria Allen



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