“Nothing feels as good as scouring a yard, spotting a piece that calls to you, digging for its entirety, and revealing its full glory,” says Brooklyn-based sculptor Kennedy Yanko. She is speaking of her trips to salvage yards in search of discarded metals she will later repurpose for her sculpture practice. “It’s a full day or multiday activity, scavenging. But again, it’s an integral thrill and informs everything that follows.” The fruit from some of these treasure hunts will be on view in a solo show with Denny Dimin Gallery at the Dallas Art Fair in October.
In 2017, Yanko was looking for new ways to engage the signature paint skins she is known for, and a metal fabrication shop down the street from her studio provided that turning point. Following what essentially became a welding apprenticeship, where she “shadowed the guys in the shop,” she participated in The Fountainhead Residency in Miami and geared her studio practice to joining found objects with her paint skins. “I’d found a few metal objects there that just cried out with opportunity. Their palettes appealed to what I felt the paint skins had been craving, and I immediately found a use for them.”
The making itself informs Yanko’s work, which involves a complex bending and crushing of the metal into desired forms while leaving traces of the performance of making. Next she applies the prepared paint skin, its ebb and flow partially entombing the object through creases and corners in the foreground, background, then foreground again, until they become one.
Leaving the material’s ghostly intent discarded in the yards, Yanko imparts, “I want to challenge people to use their intuitions; to discover what it means to trust that uncanny feeling that speaks not in any one language, but in a cascade of undifferentiated sensation. I want people to hear the humming of atoms that comprise the object before them, and let it develop intent in their own realities.”
For her new body of work coming to Dallas this fall, she returned to copper in a continuation of her solo show Highly Worked at the New York-based Denny Dimin Gallery last February. At the time, I was looking at Renaissance painters who used copper as their canvas. I was fascinated by the way they had to ‘work,’ or prepare their copper canvases so that the could hold the paint.” Of the new work, she says, “This times around, though, there’s a sweet luminescence about the copper that I want to preserve. As such, I’m using sort of stale, pale-gray paint skins. It allows them to be both present and not, both serving as a structural element and yet fading into the background. I’m channeling an aspect of Robert Morris in that way, wanting the skins to both have gravity and levitate.” She adds, “I love the way in which the grays capture the metal story at play here while maintaining their own weighty, sublime character.”
Gallerist Elizabeth Denny looks forward to introducing the sculptor to Dallas. “This has been such an exciting period for Kennedy, with international gallery shows and important public installations, but Dallas was missing from her agenda,” Denny says. “It is also very important to us to support and show women artists, especially those who are not easily categorized, as with Kennedy working between sculpture with salvaged metals, painting, and installation/performance.”
In this case, art dealer and artist are kindred spirits. In Yanko’s Our Valence video, produced in conjunction with her installation for Time Equities Inc.’s Art-in-Buildings Program, she summarizes her life and practice: “Everything that I do -and I think that women embody this- is an offering and a gesture of giving.”
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