Words Fail US: On the text-based works of Terry Young

Kristina Bivona (2023)

It draws you back to when aol.com chatrooms and shrill dialup tones ruled the internet. Back to a time when enough digital literacy to type a full URL was a necessity and anonymity was key. It is like this with all of Terry Young’s artworks. Each digital and physical work reflects the brash course sound of that dial-up tone and the neatly folded and interconnected URL. Yet, Young’s work does not necessarily look like what I have described.It is radio static, a visual distortion, an acceptable abstraction. The work is unassuming, even common for the ever evolving digital ages. It shows us the quickness of today’s constant retroactive aesthetics. The occasional drip of primordial ooze or a tidy textile draws the eye in with curiosity and the ignorance of a mind waiting for change.  

Many peices feel both of another era and completely right now. That is because he takes on the unresolved and the underserved moments of tenderness, disease, attack, and neglect. Many of his “Found Landscapes” (as he describes them) preview a non-paralled universe-- the things that are right in front of us that we refuse to see, whereas, his text based works (and the focus of this show) come in and out of focus and subjective interpretation. His work highlights the soft stubborn spaces we inhabit as a human kind, and the subsequent rotten spots we pretend are not happening and refuse to give care to. Today, it is the neighbor we are unaware has fallen ill and the woman sunken into the bench outside the store.

Today we do climb up from the base of the online tree but traverse the branches of the internet, we travel through the links and forget where we were going. Young’s work is a kind of guidanace on how to seek out your neighbor or notice the state of things next door amidst the digital dissociation. It is a reminder that our happiness (or misery) is attached to one another and cannot be feigned by always staying online. Instead, you have to remember how to stay in touch, how to look around and notice the happiness or suffering next door.  Its a subtle but harsh reminder that there is an ache we all experience and that spectrum of pain can shrink and grow inside us all. 

Please enjoy both Terry’s old work and new. WE FOUND LOVE is from a 2017 and these text based works can stir a viewer in ways that change with the times. Each work is a digital archive itself titles by its URL with an accompanied and downloadable .pdf. Other works in series like terryyoung.org/camelot and terryyoung.org/allfallsdown are represented A critique of this work is available here. His more recent works span the pandemic of 2019 through today. These works compose the theme of “Words Fail US” as they open up the magik and minutia of Terry’s practice over the years. And I love it all.