Kennedy Yanko is a sculptor who searches salvage yards for cast-off materials–such as copper, marble, and tin–that she then combines with paint skins. These skins, her signature medium, allow her to use paint not only for its color, but as a structural material; they imbue her sculptures with vivid hues, organic shapes, and smooth textures, and stand in contrast to the industrial, manufactured components with which they are joined.
Highly Worked builds on Yanko’s prior body of work that gains much of its power from the origins, transformations, and surprising contradictions of her materials. Her 2018 installation Feel For at BRIC, for example, incorporated a reclaimed tin ceiling and natural materials such as preserved moss and water, establishing a call-and-response between the visible histories of these objects and their repositioning. For her exhibition at Denny Dimin Gallery, Yanko has reworked a salvaged copper drain pipe into eight sculptures—seven of which hang on the wall, with one freestanding copper and bronze piece that stands on the floor.
Yanko’s sculptures for Highly Worked evoke the performance of their making. Having bent, welded, and crushed the metal into their desired shapes, Yanko leaves distinct traces that allude to the physical gestures of her process. There is a playfulness in the soft, flowing, colorful paint skins with which the metal is paired: like living forms, they fold between creases of copper and curve around the sharp corners therein. Through the sculpting of paint and metal as one, Yanko allows the materials to dissolve into each other, such that they can take turns occupying the foreground. By challenging our perception of what these materials are and the nature of their origins, Kennedy destabilizes the boundaries between the matter of her materials and our bodily existence, suggesting no separation may exist.
Choosing copper as her primary medium for this collection, Yanko refers to the history of painting on copper, which was widespread in northern and southern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was deployed as both a support and a luminous background capable of imparting jewellike surfaces. Incorporating her “skins” as articulate strokes and limiting their palette to the colors of oxidation (greens, blues, reds, oranges), Yanko directly acknowledges artists’ methodologies from the Renaissance and the use of copper to enhance the depth and potential of color laid upon it.
Kennedy Yanko was born in 1988 in St. Louis, Missouri. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, California. Yanko has been included in numerous acclaimed exhibitions including Alchemy, curated by Elizabeth Ferrer and Jenny Gerow at BRIC in Brooklyn; The Aesthetics of Matter, curated by Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont at VOLTA, New York; and Hidden in Plain Site, curated by Derrick Adams at Jenkins Johnson Projects. Yanko has been awarded with artist residencies including Fountain Head in Miami, Florida and Atlantic Center for the Arts studying with Rick Lowe in New Symna Beach, Florida. Her work has been featured or reviewed in Hyperallergic, Vice, Artcritical, Galerie Magazine, the Observer, and ArteFuse.