Studio Visit with Kennedy Yanko in Bushwick, Brooklyn
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in September, I paid a visit to Kennedy Yanko's raw studio space in Bushwick to take in her powerful sculptures. Yanko is a painter and sculptor who has been Brooklyn-based for the past seven years. Her paintings, which she calls ‘skins’ are gorgeous results from various paints being poured into one another, forming intriguing color stories, and let to dry into beautiful shapes. To push her practice further, she now pairs the ‘skins’ with rubber, metal, rock, marble, and found objects to produce abstract, physically-commanding sculptures. Many of these materials she sources locally in Brooklyn, and all over the city, working out of two spaces in Bushwick and a third space in Gowanus. One of her first statements to me was, “I work in metal because it’s available and beautiful, but really it helps me understand gender fluidity, and not having to be pretty. The less I try to do that, the more sharp edges I show, and the better the work becomes.”
The St. Louis native possesses many dualities, her mother is black and her father is white. She recently cut off her blonde curls and rocks a newly shaved buzzcut. She works with industrial materials and accents them with whimsical color palettes. She plays with masculine and feminine energy and it translates in her work. When working on small pieces she feel like “a lady”, when working larger scale it feels more “rough”. Yanko credits her four years spent with The Living Theatre Company, the iconic performance troupe helmed by the late Judith Malina, sharing, “ it taught me about physicality and movement and bringing something from an inside movement out.” During our visit, several pieces spoke to me, one piece had sea-green colored paint skins with hints of pink, arranged delicately on thick marble slabs. Another paint skin, in stunning earth tones, was draped over two metals pieces and hung from the ceiling. Yanko states, “I wanted to work with these natural colors that I was finding in fashion lately”, adding that they’re like “aerial shots of looking down at the world”.
For the past six months Yanko has been immersed in intense research, in what she describes as “looking, studying, and re-arranging” and making “soft decisions.” And this hard work is paying off. Seriously. Yanko is currently in two group shows, including, 'Hidden in Plain Sight' at Jenkins Johnson Projects in Brooklyn, curated by Derrick Adams, and '-morphic' curated by Charlotte Mouquin. Yanko is prepping for a group show at Long Gallery in January 2018, and recently published her first monograph ’Elements and Skin’ about the impressive body of work with the same name. Follow Kennedy Yanko @kennedyyanko
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY NOEMAD