The Light and the Dark at Roberts Projects – Los Angeles

BRENNA YOUNGBLOOD, No More Drama 2021 Mixed media on canvas, 72 x 59.75 x 6.5 in
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. Photo Alan Shaffer

A slice of life, words of Brenna. They include the fact that each art piece is also cut off and detached from a bundle of experiences that everyone carries and burns, to feed the mysterious envelope of their body inside and around. The living life. Do paintings have it? No doubt yes. If the artist gave it to them. For how long it is hard to tell. 

Brenna Youngblood 2021 is like a springtime blooming. A year of isolation and hard time made her hands lighter and witty, they can glue her shoes on canvas and tell them to walk away, drama is over. Remains of the reclusion enter the geometrical space of the canvas without embarrassment becoming the image of a headless garment, a bodiless, playable thing once filled and reshaped by a human sitting on a pile of darkness. The human vanished like Aladdin’s spirit quitting the lamp, and the tag remains, hung on the new prison of this object that strangely moves from wrapping a person to being framed, literally, as an icon of emptiness. 

BRENNA YOUNGLBLOOD, Incarceration 2020, Mixed media on canvas 69.75 x 40 in Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. Photo Alan Shaffer
BRENNA YOUNGBLOOD, Hourglass 2021, Oil on canvas 72 x 60 x 1.5 in
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles. Photo Peter Kirby
BRENNA YOUNGBLOOD, Closure # 6 2021 Mixed media on canvas 24 x 24 x 2.25 in Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles. Photo Peter Kirby

Robert Rauschenberg    “When I lived on Broadway, I would go out to the middle of Union Square and take Polaroids to have made into silkscreens.  I needed some very simple images, like perhaps a glass of water, or a piece of string, or the bathroom floor with a roll of toilet paper on it. They didn’t need to have any immediate emotional content. I needed them to dull the social implications, to neutralize the calamities that were going on in the outside world.”* 

In the isolated time that’s what Brenna did: she unscrewed herself from the obligations of self-expression, maybe accepting to float among the clouds of the general uncertainty, and lifting from her artworks of 2020-21 the burden of showing what the public expectation asks for: coherence, continuity, identity, fear and rage.

BRENNA YOUNGBLOOD, Jolly Rancher 2021. Mixed media on canvas 72 x 60 in
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles Photo Alan Shaffer

What a relief to find her hands returning to the art manners of many predecessors with no drama and no affiliation. She takes walks into their fields as it works for her feet, as her mind rethinks them so her hands create an atmosphere she can breath. What we see is the visual outcome of Brenna’s conversation with Hammons, Magritte, Rauschenberg, maybe Frankenthaler, Mondrian, or herself of the past. Arbitrary references, my own incarceration in thoughts. 

Only Hourglass  is an oil on canvas. All the other pieces are mixed media on canvas, but they are all paintings. Single creatures telling their story, the artist gives them the energy to be an exuberant Jolly Rancher, an almost threatening Hourglass, a funny anti-geometrical field of rectangles incapable of keeping their edges clean, they are pieces of paper: Dirty Mondrian. Mondrian might be flustered in his grave trying to make the lines straight.

BRENNA YOUNGBLOOD, Out the Blue 2021 Mixed media, including archival hand-made wall paper by Kristin Calabrese, on canvas 60 x 72 in
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles Photo Peter Kirby

Out the Blue, details

The most surprising encounter is Out the Blue. It needs a long, accurate visitation. Brenna places directly on canvas pieces of wallpaper that painter Kristin Calabrese has handed her years ago.

The thickness of life is made flat on canvas, and yet, because some layers have been scratched out, small caves appear with a few words of a love story, or the drawing of a dog, graffiti on canvas. And five vertical cracks, mostly painted, suggest other stories hidden behind the cracks in full contrast to the blue flowers on wallpaper, breaking the wall and pestering them. It is life’s squeezebox, opening and closing according to no choice, it just happens, nothing to do about it. Calamities are neutralized. Brenna, what a great work! If there is a group to which I would like to associate you, it’s the old group of “artists of the humble Infinity” —a group of artists of the early 70s, who were considered inconsequential: the artists of Studio Z. 

You are a contemporary griot.  

  • RAUSCHENBERG An interview with Robert Rauschenberg by Barbara Rose, Vintage Books, 1987