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It's a pleasure when an exhibition stops one in one's tracks, forcing one to try to tie down just what it is that seems unexpectedly compelling. Jay Younger's photographic images in Combust have much of this quality. Exploring direct, playful humour and forceful , vivid colour, these works present quite dramatic alternatives to the more restrained narrative tone of Younger's earlier elaborate montages of objects and persona.
As Combust makes evident, Jay Younger's attention has shifted in focus from the human figure, and from works resembling hallucinatory cinematic stills, to more sculptural iconography celebrating a sense of abrupt solidity and luminosity. Single composite images, rather than glimpses of high drama in inner space, these photographs as Younger herself suggests-are not so much deconstructions of the subconscious, as reconstructions realigning fragments of cultural debris. Deriving at times from preparatory drawings, the various images in Combust combine heraldic monumentality with an air of alchemical energy. Trailing streams of smoke, fire or haze rush behind or below images, as sparkling, semi-psychedelic objects elevate, levitate, or ignite against night skies, in defiance of spatial and tonal gravity. In one work, a galleon hovers mysteriously within the metal arc that would pinion the globe, were it still upon one's desk or table. Adrift somewhere aloft, within black holes aglow with curiously cosmetic phosphorescence, Younger's visions invite the mind's eye to voyage across time, space, terrestrial reality, and the assorted energies of glitter-paint, montage, computer-generated image and tinted cibachrome.
Elsewhere, a pineapple blazes into space; an image of Pegasus evinces similar propulsion while undergoing acupuncture or martyrdom from dozens of pins; a windsock flutters against a horizon of TV newsreel image fall-out; and somewhat like the branding-iron accompanying the "Bonanza" theme-tune, a metallic rendition of the word 'NO' blazes affirmatively against infinity. Mixing whimsy, anxiety, banality and fantasy, Younger offers haiku-like fragments of iconographic spontaneous combustion, firing the imagination.
Younger comments that these pieces might also function sculpturally, as some kind of corporate insignia revolving above this or that city edifice. In the event, the works in Combust were suspended away from the gallery walls on diagonal wires, offering a chapel-like installation of images, gleaming within the darkened gallery's interior. A strong transitional development in Younger's career, Combust leaves one eager to see its successors. Younger's photographic work now effortlessly encompasses both complex narrative images and bolder, more concise, sculptural visions. Perhaps a fusion of the two is next in line.