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Sheet Metal and Paint Skin Sculptures by Kennedy Yanko

Agate (2019)

83" x 70" x 43"

Paint Skin, Metal, Acrylic

Kennedy Yanko (b. 1988) is a Brooklyn-based painter / sculptor who creates expressive abstract sculptures working with paint skins (the dry film of latex paint) and scrap metal, sourced from metal yards in Brooklyn.

Yanko moved from Saint Louis to New York to pursue a career as an artist. Her first job was in performance art. She worked at the Living Theater in the Lower East Side, housed in a cozy basement apartment with 12 other actors. To make extra money, she taught yoga and worked as a personal trainer. Inspired by her physical training, she started competing in body building competitions, an experience that taught her discipline and endurance.

While working to establish a firm base in New York, Yanko cultivated her artistic practice as a visual artist. She started her art journey as a painter. Her father signed her up for her first water color class at 7. At 15, she had the realization that she could “create worlds with her art”. Over time, Yanko gravitated toward metals, inspired by childhood visits to construction sites with her father, an architect.

Yanko begins her projects by finding materials. She scours metal yards near her studio in Brooklyn with her construction guy friends. She then manipulates the metal in her studio using different welding techniques picked up through an apprenticeship at an iron and steel factory in Bushwick. Yanko has operated from the same studio space for more than 10 years, where one can find her six days a week. She works hard, and is also very intentional about self-care. Yanko gives herself space to relax, processing and settling her thoughts and feelings before working on an art piece. About her studio, Yanko says “What could be more inspiring than an empty room where I can do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it?”

Yanko’s work explores the theme of identity and the limitations of optical vision. “There are masculine and feminine systems at play when I’m working with metal. In the way that my work chooses how it wants to be seen, is also indicative of what I perceive identity to be: identity is an ephemeral thing. It’s a choice, it’s changeable, and its something that we have to keep questioning.” The resulting structures reflect elements of abstract-expressionism and surrealism, born out of her contemplative but very physical creative process.

Yanko is considered a rising star in the art world. In 2019, she debuted three solo exhibitions in New York, Chicago, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2020, she debuted two solo shows in Milan and Los Angeles. Most recently, she completed a stint as the 2021 artist-in-residence at the Rubell Museum of Art in Miami, one of the premier residencies for emerging artists. There, equipped with a forklift, scissor lift and cargo van, she was able to work in larger formats. “I’m just getting started. I feel like I’ve been in the trenches for the last 15 years just making work and doing what I can with whatever money I have. I’ve been building a community of people around me and I have an incredible support system now, a great launchpad. I’m really ready to go. I feel liberated and released and welcomed for the first time.”


Watch Kennedy talk about her process and her piece "Feel For", exhibited at BRIC during the summer of 2018:

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