The first Midwestern solo museum exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Brenna Youngblood, Loss Prevention features a selection of new and earlier multimedia works. Often combining paper and acrylic collage with images of everyday objects, Youngblood juxtaposes the figure with the abstract, raising questions of what is familiar versus what is unknown.
Although Youngblood’s practice of collage and mixed materials calls to mind such artists as Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Bradford, her work contains more muted layers of abstraction, with ambiguous and heavily-worked surfaces allowing glimpses of recognizable objects. Light switches, bulbs, and exit signs appear from a haze of layered surfaces. In Single and Successful?, for example, a photograph of a light bulb is placed over an ethereal, atmospheric surface. Other works reference the figure in the form of their canvas. The shaped canvases of Flourless Bread Slice #1 and #2 look like the famous silhouette of the Wonder Bread bag, and are collaged and painted to become delicate, fanciful picture planes. Other works function as mock tromp l’oeil paintings, recognizable at first glance and then dissolving into abstraction upon further examination.
The isolation of the objects in Youngblood’s canvases—as well as her choice of subjects that underscore a lower socio-economic status (the bare light bulb, unsophisticated bread)—raises subtle and compelling questions about the social and class dynamics surrounding the items. Challenging our understanding of objects we use every day, Youngblood creates work that is both beautiful and cleverly engaged in socio-political critique.
Brenna Youngblood (b. 1979, Riverside, California) lives and works in Los Angeles. Most recently, she was included in the group shows Rites of Spring at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Fore at the Studio Museum in Harlem; and Made in L.A. 2012, organized by the Hammer Museum and LAXART, Los Angeles. Past solo exhibitions include Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles; Nathalie Obadia, Brussels; Tilton Gallery, New York; Susanne Vielmetter, Berlin; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Youngblood earned a BFA from California State University, Long Beach, and an MFA from UCLA. Youngblood is represented by Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles.
Brenna Youngblood: Loss Prevention is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Lisa Melandri, Executive Director.