ARTnews, February 1993, page 117
David Beitzel Gallery, New York
Andrew Young’s life changed when he accepted a Rotary Scholarship to study in Siena, Italy. Not only did he switch from biochemistry to art, but the techniques, styles, and mood of the 15th-century Sienese artists had such a profound effect on him that they laid the artistic foundation from which he continues to draw.
This selection of new work conveyed Young’s ongoing fascination with an important aspect of quattrocento paintings—the seductive surfaces achieved with egg tempera, varnishes and glazes. However, unlike his predecessors who used the medium for exquisite detailing, Young builds up a rich texture. This belabored paint application belies his cavalier attitude toward the surface. Some passages have been distressed to simulate crackle and aging, whereas in other areas, drips of paint—not the Sienese palette but grass greens and electric blues of the 20th century―have been “accidentally” splashed on the panel.
Young’s subject matter is elusive but also coincides, at least temperamentally, with Sienese painting. Stylistically, there are two types. One alludes to the niches one might see in a panel painting or in an Italian church. In a particularly strong example, Fire and Foam, a glowing palette of reds and golds creates architectural elements that frame a black (and empty) niche. Lilies are painted with impressionistic brushstrokes to give the illusion of falling. Young seems enamored of this idea of moving objects, and in his other style, presents orbs or halos floating against a patterned background.
Both the architectonic paintings and the pattered works are beautifully executed. But it is the mystery of the niche paintings that conveys a sense of transcendence and spirituality.