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Jason Young Christinerose Gallery, New York, New York Natalie Rivera

Jason Young, Untitled, 1996
12" x 12", acrylic and resin on wood

At first glance, you might be tempted to wear Jason Young's paintings instead of hanging them on your wall. Wouldn't that brown and white lizard painting make a great bag! Anyone knowledgeable about haute couture would wonder how often the artist flips through the pages of Vogue and Women's Wear Daily for inspiration. As you examine the works more closely, you start to notice that Jason Young's surfaces are not very traditional painterly surfaces. Walk by a painting and the colors change dramatically with the light. The paintings are glassy smooth squares on the surface, but are composed of multiple layers that display a translucent topography.

Jason Young, an artist from Vancouver, creates stratified pods of colors and patterns, deep and constantly shifting with the play of incidental light. This effect is achieved in a slick manner with epoxy (which acts as a man-made amber, fossilizing images permanently). Through this inorganic material, Young develops a dialogue with the organic. The organic arises from patterns made from vinyl templates, stamped with the impressions of exotic leathers. They are laid into the gelling epoxy, removed, painted, scrubbed into relief, and overlaid with the next pattern. Many of the patterns are mixed leathers, creating unusual hybrids. Imbedded in some paintings, we find artificial nails, eyelashes, plastic ferns, and other various artificial foliage. Here is "artificial" nature at its most artificial. The union of nature and artifice approaches beauty while falling just short of kitsch.

For Young there are no issues about delivering an aesthetically-pleasing painting. Obviously, he is a painter who gives homage to beauty. Yet in these hybrid patterns you also find an element of repulsion: Young is infatuated with the skin of dead reptiles. No one can accuse Young's aesthetic of being decorative. There are too many issues, one being that for Young, reality is not an option in his work. To encase real animal skins would have less appeal (much less be illegal). Reality often has less appeal. Young's paintings approach nature the way a designer approaches his or her materials. Young feels it is permissible, and even desirable, to improve upon nature.

Young's abstraction reflects social influences, especially America's fascination with artificial nature--a subject that has found its way into nearly every aspect of our culture. Virtual reality, Disney World, Las Vegas and its new hotel/casinos with artificial environments, are just a few samples of this recent social phenomenon. America is satisfied with copies. Not only does a copy make one feel like they have the original, in many cases a copy is just as good (and in some cases) even better. Does art have to go to such extremes to attract a crowd? Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable explains this fascination with artificial nature by referring to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who argues that the simulation replaces the original to become the reality in most minds, even if this is not overtly expressed, even in those places meant to guard the uniqueness and the meaning of the work of art.

America's fascination with the artificial can be explained by its obsession with reality--an obsession that will lead to the possession of the object in any manner. We have become indifferent to authenticity, loss of historical culture and aesthetic meaning. Perhaps Young's hybrid art forms answer the question that--just like in our architecture, entertainment, and culture--we Americans have reality voided and illusion preferred.

Natalie Rivera

New York, New York

1997

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