New York

Andrew Young

David Beitzel Gallery

Andrew Young’s paintings are full of fascinating surface and color. Decorative and ancient looking, gestural and still, glazed and eruptive, organic and chemical, they’re all about formal elegance and painterly poise. Indeed, both his handling and his palette (saffron, licorice, burnt orange, and cinnamon) are so sophisticated as to seem almost jaded.

How odd, to encounter abstractions reminiscent of Robert Motherwell, preserved under layers of faux-quattrocento glaze. Odder still when one considers the way these paintings meld abstract imagery with representational elements reminiscent of art-nouveau motifs: windowsills, flowerpots, rosebuds, and keyholes. A decorative border is interrupted by a wild splotch, an archway violated by a brush stroke. It’s to Young’s credit that these paintings don’t seem hodgepodge, that, on the contrary, they are flat-out elegant.

But what does it all mean? Does each canvas amount to more than a precocious display of technique? The imagery alone is not very striking, but the works are heightened by Young’s taste for rich Tuscan colors and layers of sugary-sweet glaze. This is pastiche: confectionery, decidedly foreign-flavored, and too rich, perhaps, for an American taste. But it’s full of exciting sensations. The more you look at it, the more it begins to seem eccentric—so waywardly reactionary in its quest for elegance as to be, in fact, daring.

Justin Spring