Extending our program’s long-standing commitment to experimental practices in painting, Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present The Mathematics of Individual Achievement, a solo exhibition of new paintings and sculptures by Los Angeles-based artist Brenna Youngblood. This marks the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.
Negotiating the tension between representation and abstraction through the language of photography, collage, painting, and more recently, sculpture, Brenna Youngblood’s practice has explored and transformed some of the conceptual and formal strategies associated with American West Coast assemblage. Initially trained in photography, Youngblood began to treat her photographs as source material for large-scale layered collaged compositions that mined the relationship between the autobiographical and the historical. Invested in exploring the multidimensional qualities of materials, Youngblood soon began to expand her formal sensibilities, leading to unconventional treatments and juxtapositions of materials and forms. Photographs, wallpaper, textbook pages, wooden sheets, and paint, amongst other things came together to create Youngblood’s unforeseen palette. Similar to predecessors like Rauschenberg, and perhaps more accurately, Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge, and Betye Saar, Youngblood began introducing found materials to her work, translating the accumulative conditions of the studio into painterly objects with a raw sculptural quality.
While shaped canvases, plywood, and other materials began to serve as backdrops for Youngblood’s painting exercises, more recently, Youngblood has furthered her investigations; the new materials that exist in the studio have called for a different conceptual approach to both painting and sculpture, one that Youngblood communicates through this exhibition. Like in many of her previous projects, Youngblood draws from documents and materials in her personal archive to establish both a point of departure and context for the work, a conceptual gesture that echoes the process through which materials are selected and used in her broader practice. In this particular instance, Youngblood takes her old elementary school math book as a point of departure. Intrigued by the visual composition of each page—her penciled problem solving marks and residue of erasers—Youngblood takes both the visual and material language of the math book to create a series of wall sculptures that take the form of familiar arithmetic symbols and equations. These works create an infrastructure for the exhibition that Youngblood playfully uses to speak about the human attempt to rationalize, solve, and reach concrete solutions—a self-reflexive process that she herself engages in through this show. A selection of paintings that demonstrate her signature approach to the utilization of photographic imagery as painting material are included alongside a new body of sculptural wall paintings of stars, clouds, and domestic icons, juxtaposing her now perfected material techniques with her ongoing interest in the everyday, the subjective, and the politics of personal narrative construction.
As the mathematical signs create a translating mechanism to reveal the relationships between these works, viewers will also be presented with a new sculptural work that marks Youngblood’s most recent experiments with free standing sculpture. Taking on some of the iconography normally used in her paintings, Youngblood converts a symbol from the math book into a large-scale jungle gym sculpture. Youngblood hints at some of her more recent aesthetic investigations, allowing us for the first time to trace a historical trajectory of her creative process and its influences. In creating a seemingly rational system with which to read the work, Youngblood puts forth an interrogation of objectivity, more specifically in relationship to our ongoing debates about the condition of painting, its viability, and its relationship to other mediums. In this environment of sculptural paintings and painterly sculptures, Youngblood extends these debates even further, presenting viewers with aggressive interrogations of both painting and sculpture traditions that simultaneously remind us about the possibility of both mediums’ intimate coexistence.
Brenna Youngblood earned a BA in 2002 from Cal State Long Beach and an MFA in 2006 from UCLA, where she studied with Cathy Opie and James Welling. Recent solo projects include exhibitions at Jack Tilton Gallery, Susanne Vielmetter Berlin Projects, Margo Leavin Gallery, Wignall Museum, and the Hammer Museum. Youngblood has also participated in exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, Harris Lieberman Gallery, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the 2008 California Biennial, and the California African American Museum.