Trevor Young Finds Beauty in Banality

Feb 18, 2016 1:23AM

It takes a heady dose of romanticism to be awed by gas stations and power plants, but Trevor Young’s beguiling oil-on-canvas paintings have no trouble finding beauty in our everyday, utilitarian world. As his paintings pull you in, it’s easy to forget that his subjects are the banalities of suburban sprawl, the brick and mortar of commercial culture, and the nondescript places and things we zoom past on the beltway.

Young makes a strong case that such subjects aren’t banal at all. His odes to these overlooked structures and landscapes form the basis of “Voltage,” a solo exhibition at Addison/Ripley Fine Art in Washington, D.C., where the artist works. In Young’s hands, the mundane acquires an air of mystique that makes us want to linger a little longer—longer, certainly, than you’d expect to look at a blank billboard or a deserted parking lot.

His paintings, particularly in their treatment of haunting emptiness, bring to mind the work of Edward Hopper as well as Ed Ruscha’s roadside photographs. Young’s take differs, however, in its insistence that such spaces are, despite their sterility, not alienating or unremarkable. There’s more verve in Young’s world, and barely a statement about consumerism.

Works such as Grazed Pastures (2016) and The Entrance to the Grand Canal (2016) feature vacant, semi-rural topographies scattered with unremarkable infrastructure, such as billboards, as if viewed from a highway. Others, like Building (2014) and While in Progress (2016), show architecture still under construction, workers nowhere in sight. Darkness descends in the latter, an inky black that, as in much of Young’s work, is more void than shadow.

Young’s visions of the ordinary seem pleased with the world as it is. Rather than dismissing the commonplace things that dominate and facilitate our lives, he invites us to enjoy their presence and the simple beauty they offer.

—Grace-Yvette Gemmell

Trevor Young: Voltage” is on view at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C., Jan. 30–Mar. 5, 2016.

Discover more artists at Addison/Ripley Fine Art.