September 30, 2022
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Kennedy Yanko’s mixed media sculptures exude a sense of duality

By on August 4, 2022 0

The artistic process can be full of spontaneous and seemingly fortuitous discoveries that come with self-reflection. “What [eventually] becoming ‘White, Passing’ wasn’t initially about race,” reveals Brooklyn-based painter and sculptor Kennedy Yanko, the 2021 artist-in-residence at Miami’s famed Rubell Museum. However, weeks of introspection during this intensely focused program will ultimately result in three pieces that explore aspects of the artist’s subjectivity. “My investigation at the Rubell residence quickly grew into an in-depth investigation into how my skin, my body, my face, and how I physically present myself to the world affect me.”

The series of sculptures, which are made from a salvaged shipping container salvaged from the scrapyard and joined with paint skins, were also largely shaped by Indelible fluidity, the graphic novel that Yanko was simultaneously writing. “Despite having a black mother and a white father,” the artist explains, “the conversation about race was muted.” For Yanko, the process of writing this piece of illustrative prose “stimulated further research and demanded that I make space and time to skim through it on the spot.”

On display at the Rubell Museum until October 2022, the imposing sculptures are his largest to date. “I think it’s telling that what came out of it was the biggest piece of work I’ve done to date, while also touching on some of the biggest feelings and topics I’ve tackled so far.” For Yanko, the self-reflective process required to write his graphic novel “opened up the possibility for me to investigate any subject, at what seems like any scale.”

Despite their size, two of the three pieces hang from the ceiling like delicate ornaments. “I love that my work challenges the things you believe in in the physical realm. How does this thing float? Is it soft, is it hard? Is it dangerous?” Flowing, colorful paint skins contrast with the hard solidity of repurposed metal. Yet these contrasting games of textures and colors produce an undeniable tranquility. “I am interested in evoking the harmony that occurs in the dualities of our life experience.”

Miami has provided Yanko with the opportunity to showcase some of the most impressive work of her career to date, as she also collaborated with BMW to create a piece for Art Basel Miami Beach last December. She calls BMW a company that “understands how to work with artists”, attributing this to its willingness to relinquish creative control. “They don’t come to give us ideas; they come in and ask us what we want to do, then make it easy for us. She believes that great works and meaningful partnerships can come from having such confidence in an artist. “If we are given the means to do what we want to do, we can do miraculous things,” says Yanko. As for what inspires her miraculous pieces, the list includes travel, color, the ocean, and, of course, “the space between things that look different but aren’t.”