Text by Naima J. Keith, Rebecca McGrew.
Project Series 50: Brenna Youngblood documents the artist’s solo exhibition at Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California (January 20 - May 17, 2015.) Curated by Rebecca McGrew, this exhibition highlights a new suite of paintings consisting of lyrically distressed six-foot-by-five-foot paintings that retain subtle collaged elements. The eight paintings on view explore gestural abstraction, color field painting, and collage, and pose questions about memory, identity, and class. The exhibition is the 50th in the Pomona College Museum of Art’s Project Series, which presents Southern California artists in focused exhibitions.
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.
Naima J. Keith is Assistant Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Rebecca McGrew is Senior Curator at Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California.
Published by Pomona College Museum of Art, 2015
Format: Softcover, 10.5 x 7.5 inches / 48 pages