Big Shoulders, Big Names: Julian Pace and His Paintings of Football Legends

Big Shoulders, Big Names: Julian Pace and His Paintings of Football Legends

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Big Shoulders, Bold Colors, and Iconic Silhouettes – These are just some of the elements that define the artistic style of Julian Pace. The artist brings to life the stories of sports greats. Messi, Beckham, Zidane – names that resonate worldwide, whether you are a passionate fan or a casual viewer of football. And that’s the essence. To show that sports pop culture is not just a choice but has become part of our everyday lives. Athletes who have surpassed their sporting achievements to become internationally recognized personalities are depicted with bold shoulders on enormous canvases.

For a long time, Julian Pace was an unknown name. He dabbled in art only occasionally while juggling various other jobs to make ends meet. "I've had a connection to art since I was a kid. Wherever I went, I always carried a pencil and paper. My father lived in Florence, so every summer I traveled from the USA to visit him. All I needed was a skateboard and my drawing supplies – that was enough. I had many interests, and my family used to tease me about it." Everything changed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when he received a text message from an influential curator in Los Angeles. This unexpected contact provided him with a space to turn his sketches into large-scale paintings and fully commit to his art. Soon after, he had his first exhibition.

Julian Pace, source: Cult Kits

"For the first time in my life, I feel like I'm doing something that's truly mine. Before, I worked as a kindergarten teacher, a tour guide, and a bartender, but it never felt right. I always felt the need to move on and search for something else. I started painting every day and gradually got better. And most importantly, I was lucky enough to be noticed by someone," Julian Pace recalls his artistic beginnings. Today, he has several successful exhibitions in LA under his belt and is rightfully considered a promising new talent among the rising generation of American artists.

When it comes to sports, Julian admits he was influenced by his older brothers and also by Italy. Football has always played a significant role in his life. Although he couldn't attend Fiorentina matches because his father forbade it, deeming them too dangerous, he was a passionate fan. "I've always been drawn to these figures who managed to transcend sports and become larger than life. This is the concept I try to capture in my art."

Julian's work is not only known for depicting icons from the world of sports, pop culture, and history, but also for the distinctively broad shoulders that give his figures a monumental appearance. This characteristic of his work started almost as a joke, a response to a friend's comment about the figures' shoulders being too skinny. "So I made them bigger, much bigger. I thought it was an interesting idea, so I began using this technique on a larger scale. Personal style is born from mistakes, right? Something clicked, and I just kept developing it."

Julian Pace, source: Cult Kits

Both the icons he portrays and their monumental representations are impressive in size. Julian Pace carefully combines selected colors and subtle expressions to imbue them with a personal and intimate feel. His art doesn't just present the physical image of the figures; it reflects the power of memory and nostalgia. "Many of my subjects come from my instincts. They're in me: from the matches I attended, the TV shows, the old football jersey sponsors. Looking back, I see where these sources of inspiration come from." Through his imagination and artistic skills, Pace highlights how icons and celebrities shape our subconscious and influence our perspective of the world. By affecting our perception, they gain greater significance and impact our collective thinking.

The world of sports for Julian goes beyond dry statistics, titles, and awards. His passion lies in football, a sport he's been close to since childhood, focusing on the vibrant colors and distinctive silhouettes of iconic jerseys, sporting gear, and the players who wore them. His notable works include portraits such as David Beckham in England's Umbro-logoed jersey from the 90s, a young Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester United's Vodafone-logoed kit, and a portrayal of Zinedine Zidane from 1998, when he led France to World Cup glory.

Through stylized portraits of football legends, Julian highlights not just their iconic attire but also the entire communities they represent. Viewers of his famous athlete portraits can draw parallels to the sports trading cards they once collected.

Julian Pace, Beckham, source: Sotheby's

Among his other football pieces, you can find a large-scale drawing of Mexican footballer Luis Roberto Alves proudly displaying his chest to reveal the beauty of his home jersey inspired by Aztec culture. There's also a detailed reinterpretation of the legendary Adidas "Predator" football boots worn by stars like David Beckham, Alessandro Del Piero, and Rui Costa, which have become an integral part of football history.

While displaying famous athletes may be appealing to some viewers, for Pace, these men hold a different significance: they serve as inspiration for experimenting with composition and form in a repeated process from sketches to final painting. Pace thus infuses his works with a unique touch of living collective memory. "These men weren't just athletes; they symbolized the pinnacle of their field," remarks LA gallery Simchowitz about him.

Julian Pace, source: Athletmag

Julian's art doesn't solely focus on footballers; he's interested in a wide range of personalities who have transcended themselves.

Julian Pace (born 1988, Seattle, USA) currently lives and works in Los Angeles. His recent solo exhibitions include De Brock in Knokke (2023), Simchowitz in Los Angeles (2021), and The Cabin in Los Angeles (2020). His work weaves elements of nostalgia with broader cultural themes. Pace's artistic oeuvre stands out for highlighting sports as a cultural phenomenon and exploring its connections to brands, sponsorships, and societal context.

Julian Pace, source: Athletmag

Julian Pace, source: Juxtapoz

Julian Pace, source: Athletmag

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Published 27.06.2024

Dominika je studentkou antropologie na Univerzitě Karlově. Pochází z rodiny novinářů, takže k rozhovorům to neměla nikdy daleko. Vyrůstala uprostřed neustálého cestování po Evropě, které v ní probudilo lásku k poznávání různorodých kultur a navazování nových vztahů. Je vášnivou cestovatelkou a ráda objevuje nové obzory. Svojí každodennost ráda naplňuje prostými radostmi života, jako je šálek čerstvé kávy nebo melodie její oblíbené písně.

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