Freud believed that every decision we make is either controlled by fear or sex, and Denver artist Scott Young capitalizes on this belief with his exhibition at RULE gallery titled Wish You Were Here. These feelings and experiences exist for us all, in some way. What makes us different is how we decide to react to them. So how will you decide, by fear or sex?
That being said, Young’s art would be unjustified without mentioning that his themes have inspiration from other psychological theories. Aside from the Freudian belief mentioned above, there are hints of narcissism and nods to Pavlov’s dogs. These complex ideas are represented with astoundingly simple designs and colors primarily using neon tubing and acrylic boxes. And Young is particular about his colors, which he describes as saccharine, or having a candy-like appeal. Young has been working with neon lights since the age of 18 in L.A, where he started his neon career making signs for movie and T.V. sets.
Before heading into RULE gallery, make sure to check out the first piece, attached to the roof of the building — and it’s the best at dusk or night, when the flickering of the last letter is most noticeable. This is your first clue as to the underlying tone of the entire exhibition — a hard, industrial representation of soft, vulnerable emotions. And it is supposed to feel like a product being sold, a nod to the commercialization of being in love — the idea that we may be asking more and more of our partners because we think that’s what we deserve as consumers of their love or affection. Is the customer always right? And do we demand things because we desire them (sex) or because we don’t want to be left out (fear)?
Once inside, move from the piece titled Come With Me toward your right, around the dividing wall and ending with the piece titled Someday. It is designed this way because the pieces evolve from lighter moods to darker ones, crossing an actual line in the middle. Come With Me invites the viewer to remember or revisit times in their past where such invitations seemed simple, uncomplicated and even pure. You cannot see the electronics or connections that light the saying up, and that absence reminds us that sometimes we do not see everything involved in operating something.
This is Where I Fell in Love begins the descent toward the darker side, with a video of a woman walking away and then back toward the viewer behind the lettering (the brightness of the letters can be turned down with a dimmer to better allow you to see the outline of the woman). Falling in love is such a sweet memory, if the other person feels the same way. The neon lettering is handmade, and in this one the font is characterized with an innocence — the handwriting of someone yet to break their heart. And the rosy bright color (hand-painted onto the tubes) entices us to step close, to open our hearts for just a moment.
Stepping across the actual line (a hand-blown tube filled with argon gas) in Line Separating the Past from the Future, and the exhibition becomes a room dedicated to the exploration of our darker traits. Depending on your experience, you might rationalize or retaliate from the plastic wrappings around Love Me Harder; is it suffocation or protection? Fantasy or nightmare?
The indecision between fantasy and nightmare continues with Punching Bag, a hanging apparatus covered in Tibetan curly lamb pelts, with a secret saying reflected by the mirror on the floor. Go ahead and touch it; experiencing the striking difference in texture from the rest of the hard, glossy surfaces. Fear and sex collide here. The bag represents a person who just waits for someone to remind them that they feel anything. Pain or pleasure is decided not by the receiver (the bag) but the giver (you). Without this piece — which undeniably pulls the viewer into the exhibition — the other pieces lack empathy. In that way, this is the centerpiece, which reminds us that our own experiences will change the message we take away with us and we should use those experiences to interpret the art.
After confronting the Punching Bag, turn your attention to the Self-Actualization three-part video series. Take the time to read each one. Notice the longer you look the more the messages lose their gentle impression and turn manic, like repressed thoughts looping in your head.
The undecided flicker of the face on the other wall is Intermittent Positive Reinforcement, and the speed of change between smile and frown can be sped up or slowed down. Eventually, with enough speed the difference between expressions disappears, leaving one more undecided than the flicker between. There is something Pavlovian about our reactions to these expressions, a response we learn at a very young age and stop questioning as we grow up. The conditioned reaction to this piece brings us to contemplate such responses. Are we being manipulated or are we seeing the truth?
Someday closes the exhibition on a sad note. Of course, sadness carries strongly through art, and this is no exception. Though the piece is small (24.5 x 6 x 8.5 inches) it is heavy, both literally and figuratively. The neon tubing sits below the surface of the concrete, giving the appearance of sinking or drowning. “Someday” is one of those things we say to ourselves about dreams deferred, promises we do not intend to keep, chances we will eventually take. This piece is a perfect way to end the exhibition because it stems from fear — from the dark side of our psyche — yet it reminds us that there is still time before someday is out of sight.
Find the bonus piece in the back room of the gallery— a preview of upcoming work from Young, where he fuses the modern, commercial look of his neon tubes with organic, industrial materials like ropes and pulleys. Don’t miss it.
RULE Gallery, located at 530 Sante Fe Dr., open Tuesday- Friday 12- 6 p.m., Saturday 12-5 p.m.
Scott Young’s exhibition will be on display until November 5, 2016.
All photos by Wes Magyar, courtesy of RULE Gallery.