Thursday, March 29, 2012

Room upgrade for Pacific Northwest afternoon by ROBERT YOUDS review by Debora Alanna

Deluge Contemporary Art
636 Yates Street
Victoria, BC, Canada
9 March - 15 April 2012


Room upgrade for Pacific Northwest afternoon is an allegorical poem, a collection of works that stand individually yet interact as illuminated poems hearkening, aware of mortality, or, stanzas of an epic that encompasses abstract ideas - resonant timelessness. Interacting with composed light, colour and shape, texture and form, Youd’s ideology dispels a disposition of power and liberation, a vigilant temperament made palpable through urban vernacular. His material relationships respond spatially and texturally within each work and amongst the works exhibited, echoing the considerable evidence of affecting time with light as the means to expand his discourse, poetically.

Ericson’s cabin

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Housed in an opaque light box, Erickson’s cabin beams with Youds timed sunshiny light apparatus among mysteriously illuminated hidden shapes. Involving a patch of thin, layered cedar slats mounted on the top right corner, Youds tells a cabin story, a story of isolation where thought processing is demonstrated. Confined in a box, ambiguity of imperfect form is toughened by the unyielding sheath containing the instrumentation. Contrasting the rough and emotional reality of wood symbol with expressive shadow interplay within the three-dimensional window, a portal to intimacy possible in the confines of an ordinary cabin-life and distilled living is achieved.
In Arthur Erickson’s address to McGill School of Architecture students, 21st of October 2000, Erickson talked about how “Out of the most ordinary circumstances a transcendental experience is distilled. Though lacking in cerebral challenge, since it is beyond the limits of the brain it gives its viewers a sense of highest fulfillment. “Robert Youds said, at a recent Q & A for Megan Dickies’s University of Victoria class held at the Deluge visiting Youds exhibition, “Room upgrade for a Pacific Northwest afternoon, “I distill down what’s on my mind.” Youds allows us to glean the mottled, consistently changing unevenness within a mystery, attached to the stiff, refined wooden sheaths, the surround of cabin dwelling, combined, is the means to exist beyond the material world, which is at the heart of this tone poem.

turn on your electric

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Identified with cabin life in the Pacific North West, turn on your electric holds a surfboard in the clarity of triangulated colour patches, mapping what cannot be obtained or used. A dream beholden to prospective scenarios. Echoing the patch of wood on Erickson’s cabin, the placeholder for contemplation, these lucid patches blush and influence electrifying possibilities embodied by the loafing board. This work has inspiration placed sideways, Carpe diem, seizing contrition, barred from a dream, the allusion to hope is nearly a glossy, tinted Incandescence, crossed by bands of florescence and Youds insists a command will enable change.
Youds provided a bench for viewers to look through the tented work on its window side, so the whole gallery of pieces become coloured by pinks, red and turquoise squaring commanding fantastic, recreational simultaneousness, and turn electric with engaging multiplicity.

usonian Cave

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This work requires some preface.
In 1903, in his book, “Here and There in Two Hemispheres” [1], James Law coined the word Usonian, a means of describing something exclusively American, as in of the United States of America. The term was later employed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed Usonian dwellings, homes that were post-war practical and economical for the baby boomer families. Wright, in his Selected Writings 1894–1940 considered the writings of Samuel Butler, an author that also employed the Usonia concept, to explain his architecture for straightforward, utilitarian, yet homey homes. Arthur Erikson, a familiar Pacific Northwest (Canadian) architect escaped to travel, but did not escape Wright’s “absolutely beautiful blending of building and landscape." [2] influence which he developed in his own commanding, spiritually receptive with sensitivity to light and the surrounds he built within.
The Greek philosopher, Plato as part of his work, The Republic, included The Allegory of the Cave to demonstrate “our nature in its education and want of education” (514a), is a fictional dialogue between Plato’s teacher Socrates and Plato’s brother Glaucon at the beginning of Book VII. The Allegory of the Cave is preceded by the metaphor of the sun (507b-509c) and the analogy of the divided line (509d-513e).
In the cave, a group of people chained to a central partition inside the cavern, immobile all of their lives, face a blank wall where shadows project on the wall by things passing along a walkway in front of a fire behind them. In the story, Socrates elucidates that the shadows are the prisoner’s view of reality. He explains how the philosopher is like a liberated prisoner, who comes to understand that the shadows he looked at when forced to face forward only are not essential to the particular nature of the objects or entities that made shadows. The Allegory relates to Plato’s Theory of Forms, where “Forms” or “Ideas” and not the changeable material world known to us through sensation, and possess the epitome of reality. Accordingly, only knowledge of the “Forms” establishes true knowledge.
An aria, a solo song of intricacy, with usonian cave, Youds suspends the Usonian ideology and combines Plato’s allegorical cave where chains of connotation dangles. Youds hangs reality. With printed chains on acetate, blackening shadows flicker in square neon variation, chinks freed on the fixture. The Usonian, or everyman’s cave, a home for the free, is a place where ideal truth can be found, if released from the fetters that diminish spiritual veracity. The flash of square forms reiterates ideas that are timelessly tested. Is the Usonian concept caving into the shadows of perfection? Is a philosophy that enlightens ruined by structure? Youds materializes sensation with ideals.

wood is resilient in earthquakes



A peek into the naked framing of the work, wood is resilient in earthquakes, Youds exposes the yellow light of fear, the heart of how the absence of concrete applications affects this tragic poem - believing in security does not make it so. A landscape of grey tones with horizontally awry tubing disturbs the embedded parallel fixture. The oblong wood feels protective as it houses the blocks of glassy gradation. Resilient, the wooden hold has trusting structure, but here, faith is an imperfect scheme. Resilience has value; however, the quaking earth can test horizontal toughness, and be found wanting. Youds reveals the view into understood vulnerability. If Tturn on your electric is a plea for living, wood is resilient in earthquakes, although an optimistic thought, is a description of the failure to be resilient. Youds grounds this opposing elegy for those who may pass, a presage of fatality in our Pacific Northwest if we do not act to protect ourselves from earth quaking certainty. Or in Prosperos’s words, “release me from your I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant...Let your indulgence set me free” (Epilogue 1-20, The Tempest, William Shakespeare)

Room upgrade for Pacific Northwest afternoon

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The namesake of Youds exhibition, Room upgrade for Pacific Northwest afternoon is a lyrical ode to life in situ, an upgrade to familiar existence within the Pacific Northwest, while evolving the room, otherwise known as our psyche or internal space, fortitude or spirit, which may relate to our physical place for consideration, and Gaston Bachelard, author of Poetics of Space, would say, and as the roofing implies an attic space, upgrading our clarity of mind.
In a person’s life, the afternoon can relate to our 50’s, where one is still active and thriving, where one can change and benefit from new shafts of light or ideas or formulations, and one is equally capable of expanding the disseminating knowledge, contributing to the world we participate in, improving it with upgraded presentment. Youds work articulates and advances Platonic metaphysics, dividing the line, multiplying it, making it vertical, active and interactive. Visibility and intelligibility are synonymous in his work. Youds makes his florescent, luminescent lines dance on a cedar rooftop, indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, framed by the square of a window that we have seen in more incisive detail in Erickson’s cabin, another kind of cave. In this work, the hold, the repose is beneath the tilting slats, protecting the mindful interiors where the form of synchronistic ideas, connected with electric possibility are simultaneously exposed and supported by the framework of straightforward, humble roofing architecture. Circular holes, discreet round apertures in the roof allow the breadth of something more, where the void is a possibility, and sublimates the sunny shines within Erickson’s cabin. Robert Youds reveals fortitude in the material of illumination through inherent, enduring inspiration, distilling the light of his poetry on us.

[1] James D. Law, Here and There in Two Hemispheres (Lancaster: Home Publishing Co., 1903), pp. 111–12n.
[2] Martin, Sandra. "The greatest architect we have ever produced," The Globe and Mail, Friday, May 22, 2009.


  1. Great review. I like your points about vigilance and insecurity, and the contrast between Turn on Your Electric and Wood is Resilient in Earthquakes.

  2. I finally go around to seeing this show. Really excellent review Debora. I really like how you take the work out of the gallery and into the world with your references.