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Focus On: Kennedy Yanko

Miami— December 9, 2021— Kennedy Yanko (American, b. 1988) is a painter-sculptor and installation artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Yanko makes evocative abstract sculptures working primarily with found metal objects and paint skins (sheaths of latex paint created by the artist). The Rubell Museum’s 2021 Artist-in-Residence, this rising artist’s practice often mediates material by organically juxtaposing lushly colored soft-appearing paint skins with harder metal forms. The result is a profoundly personal work that challenges our perceptions through sensation and contrast, as she explores the synchronicities between her intellectual interests, installations, and performance.

Yanko considers herself a natural colorist. Even while making installations and working with metal, it wasn’t until she finally took the paint off the canvas that she realized its full potential. Her paint skin is a unique technique that involves pouring industrial paint onto a covered ground that creates soft and velvety-looking skins. Later, she fixes those layers to the metal armatures she has welded, torched, and bent to create voluptuous sculptures. The materiality sits between hard and soft; supple paint skins that elegantly drape from mangled metal. Following the tradition of action painters, performance is a key element of Yanko’s work. She spent three years at the Living Theatre, New York’s oldest experimental theater group, and is highly attuned to the presence of the body. Her finished works are best described as a product of improvisation, timing, grace, and physical strength.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Yanko was part way through earning her degree in painting and art history at San Francisco Art Institute when she moved to New York City in her early twenties. Today a successful artist, Yanko has shown regularly at galleries and fairs domestically and internationally. In 2019, Yanko was named Art Forum’s “Critic’s Pick,” received a Colene Brown Art Prize awarded by BRIC Arts Media, and was featured in 100 Sculptors of Tomorrow published by Thames & Hudson. Yanko has also exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (Parallels and Peripheries curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah) and at the University of South Florida (Life During WarTime, curated by Christian Viveros-Fauné). Her work is in the JP Morgan Chase Collection, among other important private collections.

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Photo: Inside the studio with Kennedy Yanko. Photo by Zeph Colombatto