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RUSSELL YOUNG | ‘Pig Portraits’ and Other Heroes
May 12th 2022
Silver-screen stars of sixties’-and-seventies’ America and other idols caught gracelessly away from the spotlight, Russell Young presents the different sides of celebrity. Screenprinted onto paper or canvas, the monochrome photographs are amplified - now and again covered in glittering diamond dust - to accentuate the impact of their beauty and iconicity. In Young’s debut series, ‘Pig Portraits’ (2002), the scaled-up police mug-shots portray the ultimate public shame; the subject detained and awaiting the worst jury of them all. The public.
by Henrik Riis
PRINT EDITION RELEASE
The desire to be surrounded by celebrity in the hope that some of that stardust might rub off can be a strong motivational factor. Supermodel posters in murky teenage rooms that gasps for sunlight and fresh air; a selfie-with-Bieber-wallpaper on mobile devices lying around student dormitories; or a canvas of a fifties movie star hanging in a grandiose living room of a former president of the United States. The presence of cultural idols are a feel-good factor and form a support system to everyday life. Russell Young was no different.

Growing up in the seventies, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood was the aspirational life far from the cloudy shores of northern England baring itself outside the windows. The posters on his wall were prominently displaying the appeal and freedom of everything American, reassuring the eight-year old Young that the intense boredom he found in school was for other people. Contrary to most in this part of the British Isles, he saw his future-self absorbing the Californian sun amongst swaying tall palm trees while feeling the Eastern-Pacific breeze. A school drop-out at fourteen years old - right in the middle of the go-out-and-do-it-yourself mantra of the punk era - he enrolled, despite being below the age of acceptance, for an undergraduate course at Chester Art College, thirty minutes south of Liverpool. The two-dimensional world presenting itself through the viewfinder of a camera would over the coming decade bring Young on a course to fame himself.

By the early eighties and fresh out of college in search of a job, Young moved to London for better opportunities. After a challenging beginning, his lucky break came when he found work as an assistant to photographer Christos Raftopoulos. Encouraged by Raftopoulos to find his own direction, Young began photographing live bands and it wasn’t long before his style were sought-after by magazines and commissioned by record labels. Young’s eye for movement and a rebellious can-do attitude blended with the commercialised eighties expressed the sharp-elbowed zeitgeist. The break-through came in 1986 when the he was commissioned for the cover of George Michael’s new album ‘Faith’. In one memorable image Young captured the British singer in his post-Wham days; the perfectly-messed hair, groomed day-old stubbles and tanned complexion, partly covering his face under a black leather jacket.
RUSSELL YOUNG
Elvis (Pig Portraits), 2004

Edition of 50
89(w) x 112(h) cm
35.04(w) x 44.09(h) inches
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RUSSELL YOUNG
Elvis (Pig Portraits), 2004

Edition of 50
89(w) x 112(h) cm
35.04(w) x 44.09(h) inches
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Russell Young (British, b. 1959)
89(w) x 112(h) cm
35.04(w) x 44.09(h) inches
Acrylic paint screenprint on Somerset paper.

Signed and numbered on front.
Edition of 50
PRICE
$ 2,900.00 Available from a private collection
MAKE AN OFFER
Find art trends here >
Through a combination of talent and hard work, Young had made it. His success got him to the United States of America; the promised land he dreamt about as a youngster back in England. Now, on the American East Coast he was living the rockstar lifestyle, married to an actress and expecting their first child. It was picture-perfect. But all was not right and his creative heart was slowly shifting towards a place elsewhere. The excitement of celebrity portraiture and directing a constant flow of MTV videos was more and more framed by the creative limitations of being a commercial photographer. Returning home after a break during the summer of 2000, Young had made a decision and ready to take on the art world.

The debut series challenged everything that he was known for. As a photographer the expectations were to show a subject in the most optimal angle and flattering light, images that would most often be photoshopped to exude perfection. When Young opened the doors to his first show in Los Angeles in September 2002, the world of celebrity was portrayed very differently.

‘Pig Portraits’ were “anti-celebrity” portraits. A series of police mugshots of famous people at their least proud moment; humiliated, holding a black name-board - and occasionally influenced by alcohol or drugs. Amongst the ones exhibited, a photo of 23-year old Frank Sinatra arrested in 1938 for seduction of a young woman; the actor Jane Fonda; the singer Jimi Hendrix; and the bassist of the punk band Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious (Pig Portraits), as he was taken in on murder charges. These mugshots were factual images from the archives of various police departments; except not all were real. One mugshot of Elvis (Pig Portraits) was found online without credits. Presented as larger-than-life silkscreens, the blown-up monochrome and low-resolution head-shots on luminous backdrops were a monumental shift from Young’s previous career; the one that had opened the doors to the artist’s success the States. Whether one or more were not authentic did not change the fact that Young had brought to attention a less glamourous side of celebrity.
RUSSELL YOUNG
Elvis TCB Gun (Red), 2008

Edition of 7
94(w) x 68(h) cm
37.01(w) x 27.01(h) inches
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RUSSELL YOUNG
Elvis TCB Gun (Red), 2008

Edition of 7
94(w) x 68(h) cm
37.01(w) x 27.01(h) inches
ENQUIRY
Art is about speaking to each other and by making an enquiry you can have direct conversation with us about artwork you find interesting.
Name *
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Russell Young (British, b. 1959)
94(w) x 68(h) cm
37.01(w) x 27.01(h) inches
Screenprint on Somerset paper.

Signed and numbered on front.
Edition of 7
PRICE
$ 5,400.00 Available from a private collection
MAKE AN OFFER
Find art trends here >
In the next series, ‘Fame & Shame’ (2005-2007) and ‘Dirty Little Things’ (2009-2010), Young continued to explore themes of fame and extended it to items that themselves had been elevated to cult status. Widely known to be an enthusiastic collector of firearms, Elvis Presley had many of his guns engraved with the letters ‘TCB’, short for ‘Taking Care of Business’, also the name of Presley’s band until his death in 1977. Young’s interpretation of the TCB guns are less that of a lethal weapon and more so a projection of an icon; some presented as a decorative item - a centrepiece image of an Elvis TCB gun (Red) - others using an imprint of one of the guns, arranged in a disorderly, repeated pattern onto large canvases, giving them subtitles like ‘Five Guns’ or ‘2 ½ Guns’.

Orbiting subjects at the pinnacle of fame - and the fragile state of celebrity that comes with it - it wasn’t long before the artist entered the sphere of one of biggest American icons of the 20th century. Introduced in 2009, ‘Marilyn Portrait’ and ‘Marilyn Hope’ were two images of the actress as the public best knew her; photographed with her chin lifted, lips slightly open and her face framed by her curly blond hair. The series of Monroe that followed six years later would become Young’s most famous to date. In ‘Marilyn Crying’ he exposes the inescapable price of celebrity using a photograph of Monroe in a car in 1954, crying outside her house as the divorce from DiMaggio is public. Young presents the heart-breaking image on different soft-glowing backdrops encrusted with sparkly diamond dust, intentionally distancing it from its original context. A personal and devastating time in Monroe’s life, beautified through idolisation and the allure of fame.

Perhaps, it is no surprise that Young through his practice keeps coming back to Marilyn Monroe. Between the two there is an almost spiritual connection; both were orphans and growing up in a foster family, aspiring to a place exceeding what life had thrown at them early on. Against the odds, Marilyn Monroe - and Russell Young - realised the American Dream.
RUSSELL YOUNG
Sid Vicious (Pig Portraits), 2004

Edition of 50
89(w) x 112(h) cm
35.04(w) x 44.09(h) inches
MAKE AN OFFER
Art is about talking with each other and via ‘Make an Offer’ you can have a direct conversation with us and suggest a price for this artwork.
Your Offer *
Name *
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RUSSELL YOUNG
Sid Vicious (Pig Portraits), 2004

Edition of 50
89(w) x 112(h) cm
35.04(w) x 44.09(h) inches
ENQUIRY
Art is about speaking to each other and by making an enquiry you can have direct conversation with us about artwork you find interesting.
Name *
Email *
Phone number *
Any Comment? *
* Required fields
Russell Young (British, b. 1959)
89(w) x 112(h) cm
35.04(w) x 44.09(h) inches
Acrylic paint screenprint on Somerset paper.

Signed and numbered on front.
Edition of 50
PRICE
$ 2,900.00 Available from a private collection
MAKE AN OFFER
Find art trends here >
Twenty years after debut solo show in 2002 the momentum of Russell Young is as strong as ever, his works widely exhibited and regularly finding its way into new collections through major auction houses. The latest solo show ‘WEST’ is currently showing in New York, adding to an impressive résumé that includes several retrospectives, eight museum shows and more that seventy solo shows around the world. Young’s pop-art aesthetics and focus on the icons of Western celebrity has gathered a loyal following among people who themselves are in the public limelight. Young was born in Yorkshire and lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.

To view the print editions now available in more detail and find more information about the works, visit Russell Young’s artist page here.
 
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