Biography

Kennedy Yanko (b. 1988, St. Louis, MO) is a Brooklyn-based sculptor who works with metal, marble, wood and acrylic to expose the beauty in the abject. Her art toes the line between hard and soft, masculine and feminine. It's meant to start a new dialogue about the shifting nature of beauty and identity. “I want to immediately disrupt the conversation around metal as being something that’s industrial,” Yanko said. “It's actually from nature. It’s made from manganese and calcium. It's no different than a flower when you look at its atoms." As a female metalworker experimenting with traditionally masculine ways of making art, Yanko seems to thrive when she's defying expectations. Her sculptural works push the boundaries of collage and combine metal and paint to find beauty in the abject. Learning more about her materials’ urban pasts has encouraged Yanko to repurpose metal and change our experiences with it by altering the way it participates in a space.  Her paintings, which she calls ‘skins’ result from various paints being poured into one another, forming intriguing color stories and 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.  Yanko states, “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.” By embracing found objects for their simultaneous qualities of strength and deterioration and contrasting the malleable character of paint skins with hard metals and more enduring objects like marble, Yanko asks viewers to specifically question the ephemeral nature of material pursuits, as well as their organic dualities.

 

 

By juxtaposing her paint “skins” with natural “elements” like metal, marble and glass, Yanko challenges our associations of the materials presented. She acknowledges the cohesion and fragmentation of their unique physical properties and ultimately it is in this dichotomy where Yanko finds their strength. It is the uniformity in color that allows these diverse materials to find cohesion and speak strongly to one another. As the dialogue unfolds, the skins remain soft and supple in the presence of sharper metal counterparts. The materials’ ability to gesture towards each other is the result of Yanko’s physical and abstract gesturing, or “painting,” of these pieces. Her process requires both hard labor and finesse in the handling of heavy metals and in the nurturing of paint. Although born of different methods, Yanko finds that the relationship between metal and paint is inherently complementary.

Yanko was recently in The Aesthetics of Matter the first NYC curatorial project by Deux Femme Noires: Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont. Yanko is in the JP Morgan Art Collection, the Dean Collection, and the collection of Beth Rudin deWoody. Her work was included in the inaugural exhibition at Jenkins Johnson Projects, Hidden in Plain Sight, curated by Derrick Adams. In 2018 Yanko was named “Artist of the Week” during Armory Week by Milk Magazine and profiled by Vice. Recently, she exhibited in Cry of Victory and Short Walks to Freedom as part of Hank Willis Thomas’ national For Freedoms project, as well as Parallels and Peripheries at the ArtCenter South Florida and Alchemy, at BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, NY. In 2019 she will participate in the Art Lux residency in San Diego, CA. Yanko attended the San Francisco Art Institute. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.