Elizabeth Street location.
Solo exhibition during EXPO CHICAGO
Kavi Gupta is pleased to present HANNAH, a solo exhibition of new work by Kennedy Yanko (b. 1988, USA).
Physicality is essential to Yanko’s sculptural practice. Scouring the urban metal yards of New York City, she seeks out intuitive, physical connections with scrap materials she can transform in her studio. She has long sought to exert her will on these raw materials, to free them from their past lives, covering their scars and markings to allow new forces to manifest—expressions of the spirit of their present reality.
Recently, however, Yanko changed metal yards. Rather than spending just a couple of hours among the scrap metal, she took refuge in a yard far from the cacophonous energy of the city.
Says Yanko, “It became a full day thing instead of just part of my day. It was a very different experience. It became about slowing down and taking more time. The pieces I was intuitively drawn to had very direct characteristics, related to their past lives, that I didn’t think I had the agency to take away from them.”
Rather than eliminating evidence of the past—which was about allowing viewers to stay more in the moment with her works—Yanko felt compelled to start incorporating the history of her materials into their present forms.
The works in HANNAH express this shift, retaining bits of text and aged, painted surfaces—echoes of their material past.
Additionally, Yanko began adding elements such as colored vinyl pieces to her sculptures, in an effort to expand the perspective of the work beyond the sculptures themselves.
“I wanted to think about tracing the shadows of the work,” she says, “to bring in another element. In addition to the metal and the paint skins, I chose the third element of color, to echo the highlights and lowlights of rust, and expand the work into the space.”
The additional contemplative aspects of the work coincide with a moment of personal transcendence in Yanko’s career—her inaugural solo show at Kavi Gupta gallery aligns with the opening of Before Words, her first institutional exhibition, opening September 28th at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA) in Grand Rapids, MI, and the debut of her first public sculpture on September 24th as part of The Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition of New Orleans, sponsored by the Helis Foundation.
It was precisely through reflecting on the struggles that have brought her to this moment that Yanko found herself becoming more sympathetic with the markings that signified the past tribulations of her materials—perhaps it’s no coincidence the word scrap can also mean fight.
“I dropped out of school,” says Yanko, “I had every single job in New York City. All of that was about making time to make work. During that process, I didn’t look up very much. I needed to discover my own way.”
The title HANNAH grew out of this self analyses.
“I was thinking about the things I was given,” Yanko says. “You’re given situations, and it’s really up to you what you do with what you have. My original name was Hannah Elizabeth Kennedy Yanko. Hannah was a biblical name. She couldn’t have children. I though, come on, Mom, you can do better than that! So I took Kennedy as my first name. It was my mom’s maiden name.”
Yanko’s work has always been about disrupting pre-existing associations. HANNAH announces the arrival of an artist who has welcomed a new paradigm of thinking, in which we consider not only what we are now, but how things have come to us in this moment.
And like the paint skins that she adds to her metal pieces, it’s also about how we relate to our surroundings.
“The framework supports the skin,” Yanko says, “and the metal becomes the composition that the skin responds to. There’s this play on how they interact and respond to each other. I’m fascinated with paradox, and seeming opposites, when actually they are so dependent on each other. I’m interested in the moment when they come together in that interdependence. One thing can’t exist without the opposing force.”