Johansson Projects presents Annie Duncan’s first solo exhibition, “Tremble Like a Flower”.

…San Francisco-based ceramicist and painter Annie Duncan has explored the expanded symbolism of consumer objects and how they frame femininity as slippery or malleable yet something that has historically formed (or at least informed) a person’s relationship with the world. Duncan uses the still life genre to evoke women’s agency in producing their self-image. Considered a “lower” form of art than portraiture or history painting, still life painting was historically one of the only painting genres in which women could seriously participate. By macerating a historical painting genre with the aesthetics of consumer-identity capitalism, Duncan insists that the history of women’s relationship to things must be studied, as modern capitalism attempts to sell us back our identities in pretty prim packages…Women fabricate still lives and sitter identities every day: on the internet, in our rooms. The imagined or fictionalized aspect of this ritual—creating a version of the self we want to project to the outside using objects alone—is, ironically, a type of agency. And desire?

(Katherine Jemima Hamilton)

In her recent work, Duncan playfully interweaves painting and sculpture. Whether through deftly executed still-life paintings or oversized hand-worked ceramics, Duncan expresses a deep fondness for objects and the stories they tell. The artist often chooses desk and dresser top melange as her subjects, including empty thread spools, scissors, and flowers in glass vases. Others are more distinctly feminine: disposable pink razors, jaw hair clips, cosmetics, jewelry, conch shells, curvaceous goddess sculptures, and IUDs.

Duncan’s paintings are remarkably complex, recalling the work of 17th-century Dutch and 18th-century French still life painters, art history’s original masters of interior views laced with symbolism and illusion. But Duncan’s work presents a bit of a double-entendre in that her interest in illusion is not merely pictorial. Her subjects evoke the trappings and maintenance of feminine beauty. As tools of grooming and adornment, they also assist in maintaining illusions of self.

Among her recent sculptures, Duncan presents a vast array of ceramic perfume and ink bottles. Just as these objects anthropomorphize in her paintings, they stand proudly in the round, monumentalized by Duncan’s careful scaling and soft modeling of form. Working in either medium, she remains keenly attentive to light, expertly employing transparency, opacity, and reflection across subjects. Her work is also rich in color, pattern, and dynamic framing. Although we commonly see these items splayed across messy vanities and dressers, Duncan transforms them in her work. Precisely posed and described with great care, here, they embody tension and personality, calling into question our competing desires to possess and behold.

Annie Duncan (b. 1997, San Francisco, California) makes paintings and ceramic sculptures that explore femininity, symbolism, and art historical references. Leaning into her affinity for collecting, sorting, and obsessing over objects, her work finds humor, heartbreak, joy, and meaning in the jumbled world we inhabit. She received a BA from Vassar College in 2019 and an MFA from California College of the Arts in 2023. Annie was a featured artist with Plunge Towels. She has shown her work at Saint Joseph’s Art Society (San Francisco), Good Mother Gallery (Los Angeles), and Johansson Projects (Oakland), among others.