Cutting Edge Curator, Paul Young and the Young Projects Gallery

Wallace Stevens is one of my favorite poets, so I was happy to find that Paul Young curator and owner of the Young Projects Gallery in the Pacific Design Center referenced one of his poems, “The Pediment of Appearance” for one of the 2 shows running concurrently in his gallery, “The Savage Transparence.”  Like a good poem, a good piece of art opens the mind to many layers of meaning.

Paul Young exhibits in his gallery what is commonly called ,”video art” and “other media based art”, perhaps for lack of a better way of categorizing it. In one conversation Paul said he liked the term they used in the 90's, “time-based art”

What you will find is that most of the work in the galleries is projected either onto, through something or shown on a video screen. Video mapping is often employed. Sometimes the work will be projected through things such as sculptures and onto other surfaces. Sometimes mirrors are used to bounce a projection from place to place. A lot of the work he shows is digitally created.

In one of his recent shows an artist, Robert Seidel had created beautiful paper sculptures onto and through which the video was projected. I must admit it gave me ideas for projections I would like to use with a dance company.

In one of the 2 current shows, “Mechanical Bride” there is an interactive piece that would also go nicely with dance. It is a piece by John Carpenter, “Fields” in which a field of beautiful reeds moves as if the wind was blowing through them in response to your body motion. I found myself (when no one was looking) dancing in front of the piece.

Ignas Krunglevivius of Norway did another piece I found very intriguing, a police interrogation of a woman who had murdered her pastor husband. Paul Young had created a separate room for the piece which was projected onto 3 of the 4 walls.   The interview answers and questions were projected consecutively as in the interview. Besides the type there were color changes and flashes at appropriate moments. The whole effect made me feel like I was inside the mind of the 2 people, the interrogator and the woman. It was very powerful.

I always appreciate the appeal of the sensory, especially the visual and the work of Kurk Ralske was not only theoretically interesting, but beautiful to behold as well. Work that appealed to my mind and heart.  Kurk Ralske based his work on the recently uncovered Futurist films of Eugen Schufftan from the 1920's. To quote from the Young Projects gallery website, “To Ralske's surprise, Schuffan's experiments turned out to be the closet representation of Cubism ever committed to film, with multiple points of view being presented simultaneously.”

With the exception of several pieces in the 2 shows I found all of the work to be on a range from engaging to brilliant. All of it thought provoking and presented in a way that enhanced the meaning of the work. The shows run through November 11, 2011 at the Young Projects Gallery, Pacific Design Center, and West Hollywood, California. They are well worth going to.

Before I go to the interview with Paul Young I should mention how I found out about the gallery. Paul actively goes out and seeks the artists and works he wants to exhibit. So I was very happy and surprised several years ago when he found one of my works on the internet and contacted me about showing it. I have since shown several times at his gallery and have gained a great respect for the care, thought, and work that goes into each show he puts up. He strives to create museum quality shows. With Paul the cliché, “it is a labor of love” certainly applies.

Below are a few questions I asked Paul and his answers to them.

Conversation with Paul Young

 

Question: Paul you are on the forefront of exhibiting cutting edge work. As such you are shaping what is considered to be art and perhaps the critical history of art. How did you find and choose some of the work in the current shows? What kind of criteria do you use in the selection of the work?

Answer: I don’t have a set method for choosing work, other than listening to what connects with me. Sometimes I start with a general idea, such as I did with Mods & Hackers, which was designed to explore the current state of post-simulation works, avatars and internet works. When I explore an idea like that, I’m doing it because I feel that it’s central to our age and our way of communicating, and stands at the forefront of art making practices. Other shows, such as Savage Transparence start with one or two works, in this case, works by Daniel von Sturmer from New Zeeland and Ann Lislegaard from Copenhagen. I found a similar approach to their works and both of them made me think of Wallace Stevens in their singular, minimal approach. So that led to me finding more works that I thought would work in concert with them… that’s no different than how any curator works, or course. And then there are simply artists who I’m dying to work with, so I’m trying to work as many of them as I can. And when I do, I try to do my best to give them the best space that I can, with the best equipment that I can get, and help them realize their vision. But in terms of ‘how do I find work,’ people always ask me that. I hear that all the time, and it seems to be the first question on their lips. Maybe that’s because they walk into my gallery and they always see great work and yet they have this perception that ‘video art’ is terrible or boring or whatever. Yet there is so much great work out there it’s ridiculous. All you have to do is look on line, look at gallery websites, read art reviews, go to art fairs, talk to other artists and look at any of the dozen or so websites that feature video work on a regular basis. It’s all there. all you have to do is look.

Question: Why do you consider the current work up in your gallery to be important work that should be exhibited?

Answer: I consider all the shows I put together to be important for the simple fact that they always seem to open people’s eyes. Whether it’s average gallery goers or artists, people always seem blown away by the work. And occasionally, it really connects with someone and they’re deeply moved. I’ve seen that happen time, and time again, and that’s why I keep doing what I’m doing. I had an eighty year old man walk in one day and he couldn’t even get past the first screen. He was so blown away by what he was seeing. He kept saying, “This is it! This is the future! This is the future of painting! It’s here!” Reactions like that make it all worth it, all the time, all the energy, all the money. More importantly, I want to inspire other artists and create a dialogue between them and artists working in other countries. Occasionally, I’ll present a work that uses a different method or approach, and artists come in and get so excited by it that they go out and try something different. And that’s how history gets made. That’s how great art moves forward. All the great experimental film movements for example, worked that way, whether it was 1920s Paris or 1960s New York. In each of those periods artists fed on each other’s work and pushed each other, and that’s particularly important for this medium since it really needs to be seen in a proper space and properly projected. YouTube may expose a lot of works to people, but if you don’t feel it’s impact, it won’t inspire you, no matter how innovative it is. In Savage Transparence for example, I have a work by an Irish artist who uses words to convey a narrative. Just words, tones, and light. Yet when installed correctly, as it is in my space, it produces a very dramatic, powerful experience, which has in fact, inspired a few local artists. But as far as historical relevance goes, I believe that some of the work in Mechanical Bride has particular relevance. Kurt Ralske, a professor at RISD, has moved cinematic collage forward by creating his own software that can present entire films at once, yet in a highly space and painterly manner. We might see Ozu’s Early Summer for example, all at once. The film plays in its entirety, but his program selects certain moments to highlight, so it ebbs and flows in a very unique way. So unlike the film collage from previous years, which always existed over time, from shot to shot, this work presents itself in the same way as a painting or photograph. And yet it moves. People may not make that leap when they see it in person. But in terms of history, it really means something. Ralske has also found a kind of cinematic cubism through the work of Eugen Schufftan, who was Murnau’s cinematographer, which is unlike any filmic cubism that I’ve ever seen before. It’s truly extraordinary. It’s actually a masterpiece if you ask me. I had a woman in the other day who was a painter and she was so moved by it that she couldn’t get up out of her chair. She kept saying how she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. (She also kept raving about how sexy and sensuous it was!) So I see Ralske’s practice as an important step forward as well. And then there’s the interactive work of John Carpenter, a young artist based in LA. His work uses cameras to read the room and change accordingly. Yet rather than using montage, he presents ever shifting shadows, often of natural forms. So for me, it reminds me of Calder in its simplicity and elegance, yet it’s at the cutting edge of what this medium can do. So I think the work will be regarded as historical important because there will come a time when “canned” video experiences will be a thing of the past. We may very well see a time when all of this kind of work will be interactive. And when it does, people will look back at John’s work, and all the artists working in that manner, like Camille Utterback and others, as being essential.

Question: I know you might not want to answer this, but are there one or 2 pieces in your show that speak to you personally more than the other works and if so why?

Answer: All the work I just mentioned speaks to me personally, whether that’s because of my film background or because I’ve always been excited by things I’ve never seen before, by the unknown, by anything that breaks barriers, breaks with convention and does something to you physically and mentally. But I’m also fond of the works that I can participate in as a curator, where I can bring out something in the work by the way I display it or present it. Edith DeKynt’s work for example, came on a dvd, and I could have easily screen them on a wall. But that would have diminished their impact greatly. So instead I built simple sculptural forms, or simple wooden boxes, added a screen surface to one side, placed them on the floor and projected onto them. That gave the image a physical presence that brings out that sculptural quality that was already within Edith’s work. (Her images are of simple gestures that seem to defy natural physics, like a piece of string that seems to flat in the air much longer than it should. So it’s partly gestural, partly magical, and very physical) So by building this space I believe that the work has a much greater physical presence, at least that’s what everyone tells me!

In any case thank you for asking. I’m happy that you were able to see the show.

Who Is Paul Young ?

Paul Young  besides owning and curating the Young Projects Gallery is a journalist and curator based in Los Angeles. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Elle, Variety, Angeleno, Dwell, Surface, Artnews, Art & Auction and many more. His weekly column, “Untitled,” which covered contemporary art issues, ran in the Los Angeles Times for two years, and his “City Art” column ran in Angeleno for nearly five. He is also the author of Art Cinema (Taschen), which explores ways in which art practices converge with moving imagery, and he curates video programs and exhibitions worldwide. Recent exhibitions include VideoRoam at Honor Fraser Gallery (A series on one person shows with Guy Ben-Ner, Fabien Giraud, Tobias Yves Zintel, Driessens & Verstappen and more); Cineloop at ARCO, Madrid (2010); Portugal Arte ‘10 (Lisbon's first biennial) and an upcoming show at the Parpallo Museum, Valencia Spain. He is also the director of Young Projects, a contemporary art gallery devoted to contemporary video art and film. Recent shows include Breathless with Jennifer Levonian and Sari Carel; Supervention: Exploring extreme Body Performance Work of the 1980s; and Surface/Ground with Gary Hill, Michael Snow, Ori Gersht and William Lamson
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