Rich, Wild Frontiers | Russell Young

                          A fantasy about freedom, dreams, and faraway wild places. A life story that leads to a work that evolves and changes with Russell Young the child as its basis.

Russell Young was born in 1959 in Yorkshire, where he was immediately put into a foster home, then a nunnery, and was adopted before reaching the age of one. He was moving from town to town and living an isolating existence. Here he would take his first photographs of birds on the lawn only for the film to come back developed so dark he could hardly make out the birds. Like these first photographs, Young’s life developed with areas blotted by abandonment. The lack of a personal or even a shared history has left him free to explore dreams and fantasies of sometimes better, sometimes harsher worlds. That yearning has resulted in a body of work that is an uncompromising, intimate love letter addressed to these vast reaches, which, with every passing inscription, are revealed to be rich, wild frontiers.

Young photograph celebrities and direct music videos, what brought him to the US. The rock star aesthetic he had brandished in his photography lent itself to his earliest screen prints that followed in the 2000s. His first series, collected the infamous mugshots (real and staged) of celebrities awash in fame and monochrome but also restrained as a result of their actions. In his next series, he began to incorporate his popular use of diamond dust. The glam shots of cultural icons, glittering in pulverized diamonds, embodied the lusts and aspirations of their eras.

Young’s ongoing series, perforates these claustrophobic visions for wider expanses. It still taps into our most primal instincts but also our most grandiose dreams. The series features curiosities, knickknacks, heirlooms, and fantasies of his own world built within the larger framework of the American drama. The spaghetti westerns he watched in his youth, NASCAR racers before they were safely regulated, California girls, 70s big wave Hawaiian surf photography, the Marlboro Cowboy before he was commercialized into oblivion, Native American chiefs before they, too, were almost driven into oblivion—they all debut in Young’s quest to confront and interrogate the idealization of America’s history. Lately, Young has stitched his screen prints together, recalling the classic anamorphic widescreen of western films in order to pay homage and to also expose the artifice of our dreams. The breadth of this ever-expanding series is matched only by Young’s impulse to venture into the deserts and forests and oceans of America, to go as far west as possible.

Art curator: Mor Belizovski