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Wild At Heart: Russell Young at Imitate Modern
April 7, 2014
Imitate Modern, based in affluent W1, have turned their space into a shrine to the golden age of celebrity. Working with iconic images, spanning the 1950s through to 1989, artist Russell Young creates a contemporary take on the Warhol screen print as he makes artwork based on well-known faces.
All of the two-colour prints are covered in ‘diamond dust’ and it is the large scale of the work that brings them their power. Russell Young, an artist known for painting, photography and even music videos for MTV, is best known for his work examining the nature of fame. Ultimately a Pop Artist, his scrutinising of and participation in celebrity culture (he shot the cover for George Michael’s album Faith) makes his work on icons all the more interesting. A show filled with primary colours (reds and yellows) against black, these pieces will have an impact on your wall as well as in the gallery.
Riia Carnegie, the Gallery’s Manager, claims that this show demonstrates the “glamorous and gritty side of celebrity culture”. However looking around, it can sometimes be difficult to see the real glamour. The choice of celebrities brings very distinct depressing overtones to the works. Seeing an image of Sharon Tate alongside one of Monroe and one of Elvis, it is impossible to not think of their sad demises. Even pictures of those still living and producing work are not incredibly joyful: an image of a young Jodie Foster by the entrance holds the taint of harmful fan obsession and by no stretch are The Who in their heyday anymore. These images immortalize the past, with all of the darkness that goes with it.
Even the ‘diamond dust’ covering the works seems like a sad commentary on celebrity culture. Made by pressing crystals into the paint, the name is a misnomer suggesting more worth than is actually contained. Never has the saying “All that glitters is not gold” felt more appropriate. ‘Diamond dust’ adds a false opulence and distorts the image with shine. It is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, but means very little.
However, this show is engaging and quirky. Perfectly timed to sit alongside The National Portrait Gallery’s American Cool, it is definitely worth seeing. There is a glow to the artworks beyond the ‘diamond dust’ as the iconic faces still hold the aura that made them famous. Perhaps the best image is Elvis’ shot-out television, the humour and personality of its owner making any negativity to the show dissipate. There is a reason why we as a culture hold onto these images and to view them together is edifying in an inexplicable but highly enjoyable way.
Words by Ellen Stone
The show runs until April 26th at Imitate Modern, for more information go to – imitatemodern.com/exhibitions/wild-heart or email the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them at @imitatemodern .