By John Hood
For artist, Bob DeYoung, it all goes back to a childhood where his grandfather would “play magic on me”. That magic consisted of an openly-played bone whistle and a concealed mouth harp purportedly played “by the little people who lived on the underneaths of the leaves in his garden,” as well as hands which would seemingly disappear into the dirt.
“It was only later in life, after I returned from service in the Navy and found he’d left me his mouth harp,” says DeYoung, “that I finally put it all together.”
After the service, DeYoung joined the burgeoning art scene in and around late ‘60s Los Angeles. It was a time of high design, in lesson (Frank Gehry was one of DeYoung’s teaching colleagues), and in construction (building studios for Minimalists such as Mason Williams and John McCracken). The period also enabled DeYoung to develop his own series of creations, and in the early ‘70s he not only could boast a debut solo show at no less a space than The Asheville Museum of Art, but that he was among the notables who showed in the legendary “Art on Paper” exhibition at Greensboro’s Witherspoon Gallery.
The decade also saw DeYoung in Mexico City, where noted Mexican architect Luis Barragan “gave me great belief in myself as an architectural designer.” And in New York, where DeYoung became close friends with Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi, who, at the time, thought “he was going to have to die before a gallery would give him a show”. It was also in New York where DeYoung encountered ballet dancer Stefan Wenta, who’d escaped Poland with Roman Polanski, and who insisted DeYoung put together and perform his own ballet. The result led to a 15-person piece performed at Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and a fast friendship with Merce Cunningham.
The ‘80s brought DeYoung back to LA, where he designed and built homes for the likes of Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman, and Christopher Lloyd, and palled around with hotshot photographer Gary Winogrand. DeYoung then segued across Europe and Asia, where, among other exploits, he installed “black space” next to Frieberg’s historic Cathedral and dined among the glitterati outside Paris at the home of Alexina “Teeny” Duchamp.
The ‘90s included an earth-displacing solo show at Loyola Marymount’s Laband Gallery in LA and an appearance in a performance series alongside the likes of Karen Finley in Ghent; while the ‘00s brought DeYoung back to North Carolina, where he began to work in earnest on a new series of visuals that ended up damaged into magic in Miami.
That series, entitled Laminated Paintings, can be seen through the end of February in what’s unofficially called the 2049 Studio Space. The dirty dozen works, which began as photographs, are perhaps the most astute use ever of laminated photo, fabric and acrylic. They’re certainly the most whimsically profound.
Tropicult got with Bob DeYoung from the Wynwood space and asked him to fill us in on what’s “not just the first in or of a series, but the first of its kind, as always,” as well as his “re-Committing to Miami”.
In a sentence or three, who’s Bob DeYoung?
A person moving through life with a great curiosity about all of almost everything.
If you had to define just what he is, what would you say?
Bob DeYoung: (noun) artist interested more in the unseen reality than the seen.
How’s he gonna wow the world (this time)?
Through the slowness of his being.
In short: What’s one of the most pivotal periods in Bob DeYoung’s early life?
My grade school years spent alongside my grandfather who played magic on me and instilled within me the magic that I continue to seek today.
How ‘bout the most pivotal point in Bob DeYoung’s early adult life?
When, as a freshman, I wrote my end of the year paper explaining that I was interested in art which existed outside space and time, and, instead of seeing it for what it was, the art professor gave me a D-. She insisted that everything existed in space and time. At which point I concluded that she had no idea what she was talking about and had no business teaching anybody anything. More importantly, the experience made clear that school wasn’t for me.
To continue, can you please cite one of the most pivotal points of the last 5-10 years?
When I did a site-specific installation called Phantasm at Wilmington’s Cameron Museum that was inspired by a recurring childhood dream. In the dream I’m in a boat moving through the water in the midst of a big wake. As the dream unfolds I realize the boat has no skin, and I couldn’t understand what or why I wasn’t sinking.
The piece killed the space so much that it scared me.
What’s the next most pivotal point in Bob DeYoung’s life?
Miami. I wanna keep following the art until it bangs into me, and right now that means Miami.