PRINT February 2022


I AM HAUNTED BY DÜRER. I read recently that in examining closely his sketchbook of silverpoints, scholars could find no discernible hesitations or preliminary marks, that everything emerged fully formed from the tip of his stylus. I find this terrifying.

Under his spell, I have made the following drawings with an electronic tablet, a device that allows for corrections both infinite and invisible. I pray that he might smile at my choice of tools. Dürer was an archangel of the printing press, the wooden block, the copper plate, the engraver’s burin; the tablet, too, lends itself well to broad and rapid distribution. May that my small efforts here continue to spread his legend and frighten others.

One night in 1525, Dürer had a vision in his sleep in which “great waters fell from heaven.” The image that he recorded in watercolor shortly thereafter looks like a mushroom cloud. My first drawing, made in response to that image, portrays something equally oneiric. More specifically, it is my vision of a test explosion at the Nevada Proving Grounds in June of 1957.

My second drawing borrows directly from Dürer. In a fanciful border illustration on the page of a prayer book for Maximilian I, he depicts some of the emperor’s subjects recently gained from Cortés’s ongoing and bloody labor. I have collaged his drawing onto the page, and adjacent to it I have drawn a young native of Hancock Park, Los Angeles, regarding himself in the mirror of my apartment as he tries on a tricorne recently given to me.

On the third page you will find the face of my friend Emilio. His locks of hair in the photo from which I drew reminded me of Dürer’s own.

Then we have some dolls: a gray mannequin borrowed from a doll maker online, loosely sketched, and a water-polo player painted digitally against a landscape. Both are faceless reflections on ideal proportion. Dürer drew about this too, using Vitruvius as his measuring stick. I have followed different guides.

Finally, I have made a portrait of my friend Damon on a winter evening in Silverlake. I am particularly proud of the collar of his natural suede coat. Look closely and you can almost feel it.

Julien Nguyen

Julien Nguyen, Vision of a Cloudburst, 2021–22, digital drawing.

Julien Nguyen, A Native of Hancock Park and the Prayer Book of Maximilian I, 2021–22, digital drawing.

Julien Nguyen, Emilio, 2021–22, digital drawing.

Julien Nguyen, Ideal Proportions, 2021–22, digital drawing.

Julien Nguyen, Damon, Within a Budding Grove, 2021–22, digital drawing.