Artist Spotlight: Brenna Youngblood

Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today places abstract works by multiple generations of black women artists in context with one another—and within the larger history of abstract art—for the first time, revealing the artists’ role as under-recognized leaders in abstraction.


By: Brenna Youngblood (b. 1979, Riverside, California)

In the dream-like, mixed-media work YARDGUARD (2015), Brenna Youngblood applies an array of colors, tones, and patterns to create a nuanced composition. In the six-foot-high painting, the artist challenges viewers to make connections and open their imaginations.

Brenna Youngblood, YARDGUARD, 2015; Mixed media on canvas, 72 x 60 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Tilton Gallery, New York, New York; © Brenna Youngblood

A multidisciplinary artist, Youngblood fuses her process of abstract painting with her photographic background to both conceal and reveal meaning. The artist says, “I don’t like to say exactly what something is about, because I enjoy people’s interpretations—what they bring from their lives, their experiences.” This sense of ambiguity is evident in the artist’s stylistic choices and overall technique in YARDGUARD as well as Forecast (2014), also on view in Magnetic Fields.

Youngblood often combines references to artificial objects and nature in her works. In YARDGUARD, the ghostly appearance of a chain-link fence that grazes the edges of the frame is disrupted by splashes of rich color breaking through the center of the composition. Set on a silvery gray background, the surface of the work appears faded and worn. The artist’s use of serene jewel tones is juxtaposed with a forceful application of shimmering, liquid-seeming pigment. Youngblood’s ability to evoke the world around us in YARDGUARD creates shifts in focus and resounding energy.

Visit the museum and explore Magnetic Fields, on view through January 21, 2018. Learn more through the Magnetic Fields Mobile Guide.

Katie Benz is the 2017 fall digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.