Brenna Youngblood creates evocative and moody abstract paintings that subtly examine representation. Her most recent work consists of lyrically distressed six-foot-by-five-foot canvases that retain subtle collaged elements. The eight new works on view here explore gestural abstraction, color field painting, and collage, and pose questions about memory, identity, and class.
By combining materials such as canvas, found papers, panel, faux wood, acrylic paint or other detritus from her studio with fragmented photographs of solitary everyday objects, Youngblood creates layered, expressionist, heavily-worked surfaces with both an elegiac and abject quality in their delicately worn roughness. Youngblood frequently utilizes a singular image or object—chain link fencing, a solitary chair or light bulb, a star or pine tree air freshener—to symbolize the ordinariness of a lonely or overlooked humanity. Other times, the repetition of forms—fence, chairs, lights, trees—haunts in reverberations of earlier lives that approach abstracted memories of emotional reality.
Like her Los Angeles-based contemporaries Mark Bradford and Elliott Hundley, Youngblood merges poignant autobiographical memories of domesticity with a masterful and complex layering of multiple images and materials. Her painterly surface treatments echo the abstract expressionism of Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko, and the incorporation of tarnished surfaces and found objects references assemblage artists such as Betye Saar, Noah Purifoy, and George Herms. Youngblood disrupts familiar categories and forges a unique artistic vision that links referential abstraction with urban identity.
The exhibition of Brenna Youngblood’s work is the fiftieth in the Pomona College Museum of Art’s Project Series and is supported in part by the Pasadena Art Alliance.