New York

Frank Young

Hal Bromm Gallery

At last . . . real expressionist paintings. Just when everything from graffiti to a faucet with a drip is being described as expressionistic, there arrives a body of work that recalls the earlier, uncompromised meaning of the word. Frank Young’s paintings have a raw intensity that seems wrenched from a truly uncensored impulse. His six large canvases (most of them roughly eight by six feet), convey a sense of gestural violence only barely held in check by a mediating figurative concern. The surface quality is lush and, odd as it may sound, sophisticated. Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, and Willem de Kooning come to mind; the similarities are there and comparisons would be neither unwarranted nor embarrassing. What is instantly communicable in these paintings is a genuine, madly indulgent passion for the act of painting.

The subject matter attempts to equal and absorb the violence of the paint handling. Primordial giants grapple, bestial faces with blood-red mouths scream, a melting female form wrenches itself off a cross, male suggestively menaces female (blue attacking pink). This is a nightmarish half-world populated with creatures given shape solely by the color and texture of their rage. They are visions which suggest the horrific splendor achieved by Goya on the walls of the House of the Deaf; they don’t get quite that far, but there is no doubting the potency of their ability to disturb.

What reigns in some of the work is a curious availability to interpretation. When the composition capitulates to something that reads like a situation—as when a hulking male form crouches toward a prone female form in a threateningly uncompleted gesture—the technique has a tendency to call attention to itself. Particularly in those works where male/female violence is depicted, one is tempted to clarify exactly what the blue figure is pointing at the pink figure. Since the question is not resolvable, one then begins to separate subject and style; the possibility of complete emotional closure is compromised.

In those paintings, however, in which narrative implications have been forestalled by the authority of action (the wrestlers, the screaming faces), interpretation is no longer an issue. The agreement between what is painted and how it is painted is complete. The result is cathartic—a reminder that expressionism can be (and once was) purgative.

Richard Flood