Critics’ Picks

Kennedy Yanko, Agate, 2019, aluminum, steel, rubber, glass, plastic, paint skin, 83 x 70 x 43".

Kennedy Yanko, Agate, 2019, aluminum, steel, rubber, glass, plastic, paint skin, 83 x 70 x 43".


Kennedy Yanko

Kavi Gupta Gallery | Elizabeth St
219 N Elizabeth Street
September 21–December 14, 2019

Whether balled up the ground (as in Sedona [all works 2019]), squatting on a podium (Split Form), or seemingly splattered on the wall (Connect with Confidence), the industrial materials in Kennedy Yanko’s solo exhibition “HANNAH” are overwhelmingly crumpled. Taken from salvage yards and demolition sites around New York, the scrap metal pieces that serve as the backbones of these sculptures might otherwise have been recycled or repurposed in a more invisible manner. Yanko’s modifications to her found detritus—including lustrous and supple skins of oil paint—are less invasive than they appear, and lend a distinct elegance to elements such as ventilation panels and fencing. These skins don’t hang so much as drape like finely tailored fabric; they don’t bunch so much as ruffle and fold like accents on an evening gown. Even the angular platforms on which some pieces are positioned look stately when lit up by fluorescent track lighting.

The show's title references Yanko’s full name, Hannah Elizabeth Kennedy Yanko. “I took what worked and left what didn’t,” she explains in the press release. “That was the genesis of my understanding... that my entire existence boils down to choice.” This profound meditation on individual agency clearly influenced the artist’s decisions as to how to work with raw materials. Warning labels and corporate logos remain affixed to the metal pieces, as if Yanko were allowing them to retain their previous identities, even as she riffs on their scrunched-up lines and forms to construct new silhouettes. The results are more organic than mechanic and more animated than defunct. Sleuth resembles magma rushing from a molten crater, while Agate might have been pulled from the ruins of a disaster-stricken property.