“Noise and clutter are what builds the world around us, especially man-made structures and objects. Everything in a city is intentionally designed and placed, right down to the trash… Nothing is as simple as it looks.”
- Nasir Young
Gross McCleaf Gallery is thrilled to present Excursions, Nasir Young’s first solo exhibition at Gross McCleaf Gallery. In Excursions, Young features a series of small-scale oil paintings that serve as tender documentations of common sites and scenes in and around the city of Philadelphia – where Young was born and raised. An emerging contemporary artist, Young’s choice of subject matter and form establishes unexpected and delightful connections within his artwork and with the viewer. His pictures are observant, detailed and sincere and are displayed alongside four sketchbooks containing preparatory drawings, notes and doodles.
Young is a seasoned storyteller whose background in illustration and graphic design seamlessly translates into his paintings. Young explains, “Initially, my thinking came from comic book panels and how a story is broken up for the viewer to experience a full narrative within one page. As I feel less of a need to illustrate, images have become tools to show time, fabricate larger narratives, and play with compositions similar to how I work in my sketchbooks”.
Image Right: Full Service, 24" x 24", Oil On Panel
Since his teen years, Young has enjoyed countless, leisurely skateboarding excursions through the city, finding different ways to “look” at the world around him. With his cherished sketchbook in hand, he records unsung sources of visual intrigue such as bodega storefronts and deserted parking lots illuminated by the humid haze of a streetlamp, noting, “my excitement and focus on advertisement, logos, and signs comes from two parts: my school background, and from growing up with Philly’s landmarks, which function as distinct visual iconography”. His works are subsequently adorned with subtle narratives, exciting pops of color and shapes, vehicles and road signs that possess enough personality to be the protagonists of a graphic novel.
The delicate intricacies in Young’s works often reference the art of embroidery and stitching. He meticulously captures the bricks, window blinds, cracks, reflections and displays found in corner stores, on the Broad Street Line, and along the shoulder of I-76. “The images that attract me,” Young explains, “are so everyday that most everyone has a reference point experience with them, and I can build on everyone’s collective knowledge”. His investigations into tags, script and mark-making challenge the conventional refrains against graffiti, as he highlights distinctly embellished vans, windows and buildings, like the church in Faces of London #02, where the graffiti coordinates with the “New Life Bible” script above it. While his works feature few human figures, these spaces provide adequately open-ended environments where shadows at night, legs that transport, and a few self-portraits can flourish as resilient and engaged characters, in a beloved city, with a story waiting to unfold.
Image Left: How Longs The Wait, 11" x 14", Oil On Panel
Nasir Young received an Associate of Fine Arts from Montgomery County Community College in 2017 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2021. Since transitioning from his illustration focus to painting, Young has exhibited his works regionally in group exhibitions across the MidAtlantic. His work has been featured on ArtBlog, I Like Your Work podcast and The Flying Fruit Bowl podcast.
He has been an artist in residence at Delaware Contemporary and Da Vinci Art Alliance and has won awards, grants and scholarships including the prestigious Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant. Young is represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery, and he lives and works in Philadelphia.
Image Right: Unmarked Van #3, 5″ x 5″, Oil On Panel