Pop artist Russell Young’s new exhibition Fame opens at Halcyon Gallery
In an exciting month for pop art, with a new Andy Warhol exhibition opening at Tate Modern, British-American artist Russell Young – famous for his silkscreen paintings of popular culture images – lands at Halcyon Gallery with Fame.
Warhol was in fact more than an inspiration for the artist, who used the American icon’s very own printing press for his personal journey through glamour and celebrity. Young does not only observe the world of fame through his art, but he can be considered as a member of this exclusive strata of society, and for good reason too. Young’s work is represented in collections all over the world, from galleries in Istanbul to Tokyo. There is no other artist who can match Young for his diversified reach across iconic institutions around the world.
His work can even be found hanging on the walls of homes owned by Kanye West, Brad Pitt and Barack Obama – to name a few. Young is so respected that Oscar-winning actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor insisted on viewing Young’s creative process in his studio. On top of this, in 1992, Young moved to Hollywood, the quintessential spot associated with fame.
But Young’s background doesn’t necessarily foreshadow a booming artistic career, nor one of American stardom. Born in Yorkshire in 1959, Young was adopted by a working-class family from foster care at four months old. Growing up, Young loved playing football, listening to music from Joy Division and the Sex Pistols and watching films with his dad. Through watching these movies, Young became fascinated by actors, such as Marlon Brando and Audrey Hepburn, which would later influence his artwork.
Young received his first break when he was talent scouted by the director of Chester Art College, Jack Straw, and studied drawing, graphic design, photography and film at the institution. After this, he attended Exeter College of Art and Design. This was followed by a desperate Young attempting to rapidly kickstart his career in London. Whilst living in the capital, Young developed his stance on issues of economic and social inequality, which formed a significant component of his artistic output.
After graduation, his career was varied. Young assisted photographer Chirstos Raftopoulos before undertaking his own projects, initially photographing live gigs such as Bauhus and the Smiths. These formative years in his career would prove to be essential in forming the work that we recognise across the world today.
One such occasion which fast tracked Young’s success is when he photographed the imagery for Faith, George Michael’s 1987 album, which would go on to sell over 25 million copies. Because of this, similar musicians requested Young’s services; he produced portraits for the likes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen before going into music videos.
While Young’s photography is what makes him instantly recognisable, he also moved into the realms of painting. After moving to the US, Young worked on producing “combine painting” which used collage, objects and street art. He exhibited these works, which depicted “anti-celebrity” portraits of pigs, to resemble the famous who disobeyed the Law, in LA in 2003. It was this exhibition which then solidified Young as a painter too.
17 years later FAME tells the story of fame and glamour in the potentially transformative era of 20th century culture. An ode to the American Dream, this exhibition explores how these icons of culture have been immortalised in time.
Halcyon Gallery director Paul Green commented that Young builds on “Warholian techniques, his art speaks to today’s preoccupation with glamour and celebrity, whilst paying homage to nostalgic figures of the screen and stage from the past 40 years”. Young’s style, however, is unique in its own way, facilitating his rise to fame.
Expect to see classic stars of the 50s: Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and a particular focus on Marylin Monroe who has her own room dedicated to her in this exhibition, including a four-story high projection. Young highlights their individual influence in changing society in some way, whether it’s Monroe’s sexual freedom or Presley’s impact on rock and roll.
British icons Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor are featured also, to highlight how their success has influenced American culture too.
Of course, Young’s signature diamond dust technique will be on display, which were exhibited in Harrods this January. He began to experiment with diamond dust back in 2007, whereby he would press the tiny crystals into his works of art. This seemed like a fitting material to highlight the opulence of the rich and famous.
Fame looks back to world-renowned icons of pop culture, whilst paying homage to Young’s lifetime of work. But it also features new, never-been-seen-before work from the artist himself. For the first time, Young’s series of “text paintings” will be displayed which join together images of an icon with elements of that icon’s output such as song lyrics or quotes, which adds a whole new slant to Young’s ever-evolving body of work.
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Fame is at Halcyon Gallery, 144-146 New Bond Street London W1S 2PF, from 4th March until 30th April 2020. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Fame exhibition here: