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In his previous—and consistently impressive—work, D.C.-based painter Trevor Young has displayed a penchant for two themes—enveloping darkness, and humdrum infrastructure. In his exhibit of new work at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Young returns to those two themes, but also moves in some new directions.
Young is on familiar turf with such works as “Diamond” (top), his Ed Ruscha-influenced homage to the humble yet dramatically rendered gas station—painted, like many of the nearly three dozen works in the exhibit, in proudly old-school oil-on-canvas. In other works, Young returns to such favorite subjects as airplanes and nighttime landscapes dimly lit by streetlights.
In other works, though, he tweaks his industrial focus by adding a comforting dose of daylight. In “Shady Bluff,” for instance, Young depicts what looks like a power plant, but cradles this industrial relic within a pleasant river bend and tree-covered banks. Another painting that depicts a tractor-trailer parking lot is lit by a blazing orange sky, suggestive of Grant Wood.
Still, there are limits to Young’s embrace of pastoralism. In “Grazed Pastures,” the pleasant fields of the title are framed by highway barrier and a billboard. Elsewhere, Young offers several small studies of electric transmission towers, and he returns frequently to his moodier, Ashcan School roots, as in “Acid Sun,” which depicts a somewhat menacing industrial plant at night.
Young’s portrayal of the humble airport baggage carousel (bottom) is perhaps his cleverest transformation. In Young’s hands, this low-key piece of transportation equipment becomes a graceful S-curve rendered in shades of silver; its door empties into blackness, like a portal to oblivion—the opposite of Don Draper’s elevation of a different kind of carousel to comforting nostalgia on Mad Men.
Quite a few of Young’s new works offer an airborne view of faraway urban sprawl (middle). They prove to be a mixed bag. Some are too abstract to strike a strong chord, but others impress with their smart use of color. A series of smaller aerial works dabble in blue, orange, pink and black hues for their skies, while a larger piece is downright romantic in style, featuring a pastel-hued street grid and a luxurious sky that slowly cascades from one shade of blue to the next.
Young’s biggest departure is an installation of six paintings of invertebrates hung in a velvet-walled room. Meant to evoke a zoo experience, the installation—complete with black light and a hissing HVAC soundtrack—is a welcome extension to an artistic approach that was already in fine form.
Through March 5 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 338-5180, Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.