New York

Frank Young

Hal Bromm Gallery

Frank Young recently exhibited abstract paintings and wall sculptures. There was no apparent logic connecting the two enterprises except their shared feebleness. The paintings: largish, on unstretched canvas, oil paint (thick, applied in the current pastry-school fashion) serrated on in vortexes. Flaccid orphism, in both senses of the adjective. The wall sculptures: swaddled and wrapped bundles, ranging in size from shoulder bag to fair-sized backpack made of packaging elements like foam rubber, nylon duffel bags, stray drop cloths, and other detritus.

Of the two kinds of work, the sculptures are easier to talk about if only because their antecedents are more recent: Christo, who has been wrapping objects to make them more mysterious for 20 years. But there’s a certain tidiness to Christo’s method of concealment absent from Young’s ad hoc bundles. Harmony Hammond also comes to mind, but her swaddled sculptures and use of random materials are much more shapely than Young’s bulging bundles.

My sense is that Young is resisting the relic/artifact quality of a Christo surprise package as well as the tucked-and-pleated arrangement of cloth over a Hammond armature. There’s the flaccid, unmuscular, aspect to the sculpture—nothing is supported, structured: Young’s work has no spine.

Apart from the current craze for 2-D sculpture and 3-D painting, what do Young’s bundles represent? When I first saw them, I thought of the troubled bundles carried by John Bunyan’s pilgrims progressing along their way to Celestial City—woes meant to be dumped at the earliest possible convenience. The backpack sense of these sculptural collages is overweening. Then, from another angle, Young’s mixed-media events look like tribal masks hanging on the wall in readiness for some kind of rite. The tribe? The Lower Manhattan. The rite? Art Rite. Like his paintings, Young’s sculpture has a studied insouciance, the primitivism of the cultured, but it’s only attitude. There’s no there there.

Carrie Rickey