Kennedy Yanko

b. 1988, St. Louis, MO
Lives and works in Brooklyn

b. 1988, USA, Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

Each time Kennedy Yanko enters a metal yard or a demolition site in search of new materials, she begins an intuitive process of attraction— a process Yanko describes as reclamation. “I’m stopping the flow of discarded objects on their way to oblivion,” she says. These scraps and hunks of metal, supposedly at the end of their useful lifespan, are given new context in Yanko’s work. They form the basis for novel aesthetic phenomena; starting points for new visual and phenomenological experiences.


The metal yard is an overwhelming place. Trucks full of scrap pull up and dump thousands of pounds of renounced steel, while an eight-foot magnet swings and throws metal across the refuse heap. The discarded metal is piled 20 feet high. “I can’t climb up the mountains of metal,” Yanko says. “I can just look.”


Essential to the selection process is Yanko’s ability to perceive that for which her reclaimed materials are asking. Sometimes she ascertains information from aesthetic characteristics. “I consider myself a natural colorist,” Yanko says. “It’s the first thing I think about. I feel a longing for cool, minimal tones and colors right now. I’m also drawn to a specific kind of shape, a curve, or angle. Anything that’s off a little bit. I generally don’t like straight lines.” Other times, Yanko is drawn to industrial and derelict qualities, like those of an old elementary school radiator. “When I find something like that, I go for it,” she says.


Yanko’s attraction to her materials is not only visual. It is elemental. “I am taking something with its history and its story and recognizing what it is beyond its story,” she explains. “As opposed to the past, I’m interested in the material in the present moment.” Back in her Brooklyn studio, Yanko blends the reclaimed scrap metal with handmade paint skins. The paint skins—pure in color, flexible, and new—are in some ways the antithesis of the reclaimed materials. Their physical, visual, and allegorical characteristics nonetheless co-operate poetically with the derelict beauty of the metal, leading to moments of balance, conflict, and, Yanko hopes, surprise.


People may not really know what they are looking at, materially, or conceptually,” she says. It’s abstract, but also represents a concrete inevitability—an objective outgrowth of defined processes and materials. “A lot of the work is responsive,” Yanko adds. “The materials are asking for something. They’re heavy and solid, yet light and vulnerable.”


These contrasts and balances, both visually and weight-wise, create an experiential dichotomy, into which Yanko hopes viewers will become immersed. “My intention is more of the sensory response than the implanting of ideas,” she says. “I understand things through feeling and experience before I do intellectually. I understand through my body quicker than through my mind. When I stand in front of certain pieces it’s like they’re breathing; they have a living presence; something kinetic is going on. It’s not a story; it’s a moment.”

Kennedy Yanko CV


Chasing Time, Leyendecker Gallery, Tenerife Canary Islands, 2018

Permutation, The Paragon Theatre, St. Louis MO, 2012

Paroxysm, Art Monster, St. Louis MO, 2010

Wu-Wei, Abstrakt Gallery, St. Louis MO, 2009

Untitled, The Nash Hotel, Miami Beach FL, 2008



Cry of Victory, Short Walks to Freedom, Projects + Gallery, St. Louis MO, 2018

PARALLELS AND PERIPHERIES, ArtCenter South Florida, Miami FL, 2018

EXPO Chicago, Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago IL, 2018

EXPO Chicago, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Chicago IL, 2018

Alchemy, BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn NY, 2018

The Barn Show 2018, Johannes Vogt Gallery, Hampton NY, 2018

ARCO Madrid, Leyendecker Gallery, Madrid Spain, 2018

Senses and Perception, Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ

ARCO LISBOA, Leyendecker Gallery, Lisbon Portugal, 2018

The Aesthetics of Matter, VOLTA, New York NY, 2018

Out of Line, Long Gallery, New York NY, 2018

PROJECTS MIAMI BEACH 2017, PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, Miami FL, 2017

Hidden In Plain Sight, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Brooklyn NY, 2017

Full Circle, Mason Gallery, New York NY, 2016

Superfine Art Fair, Art Basel, Miami FL, 2015

I Kan Do Dat, Rush Art Galleries, New York NY, 2014