Robert Youds graduated from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, in 1978 with a BFA, and completed his MFA from York University, Toronto, Ontario, in 1982.
Youds has been working and exhibiting his artwork professionally since the late 1970s. While he initially began his career as a painter, by the early 1980s he became interested in issues of color and space beyond the limitations of the picture plane. This interest led Youds to examine the conditions of the spectatorial and its relationship to constructed objects and images situated in real space. At that time, perhaps with the exception of a handful of major artists such as Judd, Stella, Palermo, Truitt, Flavin and Richter, there weren’t too many artists significantly contributing towards this new jurisdictional aesthetic in art that exists between the areas of sculpture and painting (Youds feels it is important to draw a distinction here from the more generalized area of installation practice which also blossomed in the late 1970s.) While he was acutely aware of the contributions by these artists and their works, he had a growing interest in architecture and design as holding possibilities for larger social and interactive implications for art - to infuse significant new fuel into his perceptual and aesthetic query. Youds felt the aforementioned Minimalists’ work had really only opened the door of possibilities, there was, and has been, so much more to do. Today his combined interests in the areas of architecture, design, painting and sculpture, remain at the foundational core of his artistic work. Within the disciplinary specifics, and their limitations, Youds feels color and space hold greater communicative roles to play. In this manner, he prefers to say his work has followed a path of exploration involving the combination of pictures, objects and things, and their cultural relationship to issues of color and light in space. This claim places Youds' career more accurately within the realm and specificity of object-hood including its intersection and its absorption into the changing roles for art within a broader cultural, phenomenological and everyday, viewer experience of the world.
In 2015 Youds was commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery to produce a major outdoor project as part of their ongoing Offsite series. The work was entitled, For Everyone a Sunset. It involved the use of materials such as 20 tons of salvaged glass, aluminum and neon. It was designed to capture/mirror the city’s own evolving image including buildings being built and coming down around the site. This past year Youds was commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts in conjunction with Open Space Gallery to produce a similar sized architecture-like piece entitled For Everyone a Fountain. It will also engage the spectator in a dynamic tension of seeing and experiencing – where the physical object intersects with the illusory realm. The work features a computer activated lighting program that translates a set of photographic landscape images into changing light and color. There is also a sound component to the work which unravels against the simultaneous light display occurring in real time. In these mutual works his aim is to create a situation where an incomplete partition of the everyday happens between the viewing experience of the built structure and the works’ own reciprocity of human presence and poetic communication.