RUSSELL YOUNG: DREAMLAND
It is often those who are born without a history who feel the most compelled to explore it. This is one explanation for British-American artist Russell Young’s obsession with the American Southwest, and California in particular. Adopted at a young age, his knowledge of his ancestry is vague. Yet rather than dwelling on this fact, it has empowered Young to create a career, an identity and a home on the California coast, and evolve as an artist without obstacles to become the pre-eminent interpreter of images in American film and music history.
‘Dreamland’ at our new Berkeley Street gallery in Mayfair marks the next chapter in Young’s exploration of celebrity as a cultural phenomenon, following his debut solo show with Maddox last winter. The exhibition showcases a new body of work by Young, featuring images taken by legendary photographers Terry O'Neill and Gered Mankowitz. Exploring themes of seduction, desire and beauty, simmering just below the glossy facade of his diamond-dusted works is a dissection of the American Dream and the dark side of fame. At the height of their stardom, these icons seemingly had it all, yet their lives were tinged with tragedy and, for many, the fame they chased proved to be their downfall.
When Young discovers images that draw him in, he devours them, appropriates them, alters them, colours them, translates them and transforms them to such an extent that they become his. Depicted in the sun-drenched colours of California, his art is hand-pulled on canvas or linen using a Warholian silkscreen printing technique, with the artist mixing the paints himself from pigments he has gathered from all over the world. Where there are a series of impressions of a given work, each is a unique piece, with the quality and quantity of the layers of paint, and the application of diamond dust, differing for every impression.
Previously unseen works featuring Brigitte Bardot and Jimi Hendrix are joined by a series of imposing new protagonists: The Beatles, Mick Jagger and Kate Moss, captured at the height of their fame. Now that the American Dream, which was sold so beautifully to us, has been exposed as a sham, Young’s introduction of a new cast of British heroes and heroines is both timely and – the artist was born in the North of England – very close to home.