Robert Youds

A year and a half ago when reviewing Robert Youds’s retrospective at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, “beautifulbeautiful artificial field,” a phrase popped into my head: “commercial commons.” I found myself comparing the tug-of-war within the work’s aura of commodity and possibility to the liminal drift you are prone to while loitering in airport kiosks and shopping malls … the sense of free-floating leisure that sometimes emerges in a way that feels parasitic to your intended timeline. These “temporary autonomous zones” (to borrow Hakim Bey’s phrase) are blind spots in an age of self-imposed surveillance in which the search for an authentic sense of the present amounts to a creative act.

Originally a painter, Youds identifies his work as “structures”; his material vocabulary resides in the designed environment, including Plexiglas, fabric, foam, led and enamel-coated aluminium. The resulting work, while clearly not painting as such, invokes painting’s effects, if not its means. It might be accurate to say that Youds makes specific objects that are best discussed within a criteria of perception, projection and transport, all the more freshly mobilized for not displaying obvious debts to the matter of painting. In trying to locate the in-between-ness of Youds’s work (between painting and sculpture, domestic and public, manufactured and tinkered-with), I’m reminded of a phrase the late David Foster Wallace once used to describe his writing: neither self-reflexive “metafiction” nor minimalist realism but “meta-the-distance-between the two.” …

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