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A Closer Look: Kenneth V. Young

Kenneth V. Young’s Untitled,1968 features the colorful floating orb imagery for which he was known. Kaleidoscopic concentrations of brilliant colors effloresce out to the edges of the painting, and produce a stark yet harmonious dichotomy between the unprimed canvas and the colorful acrylic.

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Kenneth V. Young working in his studio.

While Untitled presents irresistible orchestrations of color, there is a softness to the forms and an alluring fluidity in how they integrate with each other and, as a whole, the canvas itself. There are no heavy-handed dollops of impasto, no combative clashes of paint, but instead a congruous and deliberate amalgamation of color and form; more akin to the blossoming of a flower or a nocturnal celestial display, than to any human conceit or affair. Young achieved this delicate palette and coherent elegance of form by pouring watered-down paint onto the raw canvas, so as to produce a stained effect. This staining method is characteristic of many other color school artists, and in particular Young’s peer and friend, Sam Gilliam.  Like Morris Louis, Young would spread his canvases on the floor to apply the dripping paint.

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Left: Fall of the Rebel Angels, 1970, The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation
Right: Untitled, 1970, Pérez Art Museum Miami

His melodious compositions are always balanced, no color or brushstroke vies for attention with another; like nature, all of the work’s components function in concert with each other. Young’s seamless melding together of colors and shapes transform his paintings from collections of individual expressions into singular images. From a human perspective, nature appears as an anarchic violent battle between competing species, but from a scientific perspective it becomes clear that nature is in fact a perfect communion of life and matter.  His works can be found in a number of institutions including, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, and the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, Santa Fe.

Scale detail

Scale detail

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Kenneth V. Young (1933-2017)

Untitled, 1968
Acrylic on canvas
54 by 50 inches (137.2 x 127 cm)

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