Dustin Yellin is an artist originally from California and currently based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. After having founded Kidd Yellin with artist/photographer Charlotte Kidd, also in Red Hook, he has recently expanded with the purchase of a 24,000 square foot former factory and storage space on Pioneer Street, not far from one of the many canals in industrial Red Hook. The venue will feature interdisciplinary contemporary art and each of the three floors will have a specific agenda. I recently visited and met with Dustin in the comfort of his 2nd floor office space, marveling at the access to natural light and views of the nearby Manhattan skyline from several of the large, cavernous windows. Yellin, born in Los Angeles in 1975 has been based in New York since 1996. He originally relocated to New York for the sake of becoming an artist and was previously represented by the Robert Miller Gallery and is now represented by Vito Schnabel, a friend of Yellin and the son of filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel.
Upon meeting Dustin, I immediately noticed his energy and easy confidence. We walked through the space and he described his vision for the interior which is currently still under construction. The first floor will house artist studios and a gallery yet to be officially named. Rumors have been floating around in the press declaring that the space is called Pioneer & King for the intersecting streets where it is located but Dustin has yet to confirm this name and said he prefers PK vs. the elongated version. Regardless of location, pioneer doesn’t seem that far off. Firstly, as an artist and entrepreneur, Yellin is pioneering Red Hook. He is opening up a door to relatively uncharted territory, unless you consider the hard to access IKEA an appealing neighborhood attraction. Besides the gallery, the expansive space will also extend to the outdoors where there will be a sculpture garden, which will feature the work of David Brooks, sculpture facilities, as well as an underground recording studio. The second floor will be home to additional studios and the third floor, an on-going artist residency whereas artists will be both suggested and nominated for a time specified position. First on the list is artist and singer for The Butthole Surfers, Gibby Haynes, who promises to make really big paintings. As a whole, the yet to be named enterprise, or venue rather, it has unlimited potential and if one thing, is not lacking in is space.
Once we spoke about the studio, I asked Dustin to elaborate on his own art, which is sprinkled around in standing, blocky rectangles, and on wooden shelves on the ground floor. His work is multi-layered collage of sorts. Each layer is either paint or photographic images (both original and appropriated) on glass. The effect is not unlike a really complicated, clear at its base, shadow box. As both artificial and natural light poured into the space, the work cast eerie shadows onto the walls. The painted pieces are what the artist refers to as “Ghosts” and are human forms, nude, and made of multiple layers of watery paint splotches on glass. The effect almost appears as if to be wispy gray smoke caught in a state of frozen time inside the rectangular glass. These pieces are almost life-size and Yellin mentioned enjoying the interaction that they require/request from viewers. An important element in his works is the transparency and the participation a viewer or a passersby experiences just by falling into the background of a partially lucid landscape.
His most recent work, something else he was reluctant to officially title, Triptych is a whopping 12 tons and includes 55 layers of glass sheets. Inside of the oblong, rectangular shape is a cacophony of frozen movement. Small hybrid figures with human bodies and animal heads liken to the work of Hieronymus Bosch, giving the entire scene an apocalyptic feeling. When pried as to describe the narrative behind his choice of content, Yellin said that the piece as is many of his works, is an orgasmic release or to be more frank: a cumshot. Upon further inspection, it was evident that in a much more subtle way than Murakami’s “The Lonesome Cowboy”, 1998, Yellin is in fact playing with the idea of the expulsion of bodily fluids. His work quite heavily leans towards and features an evident notion of documenting humanity, both in the obviously representational works and also in the ghostly, figurative abstractions. He references place whether in actual landscape or in the imaginative worlds that seem to make a notation of the past. The strange, layered portraits somehow are quite contemporary even if taking a position that has been occupied by many other artists previously. The portraits are likened to busts that will never actually be busts, because the internal structure is actually rectangular.
PK is far from finished, but on it’s way to becoming an amazing, fantastical not-for-profit art space in Red Hook. Amongst all of the projects, sculptures, residencies, and events planned, Dustin Yellin is also now officially the editor of a magazine called "Intercourse". And why not? Because in the realm of contemporary art and artists, Maurizio Cattelan has a magazine called "Toilet Paper" - Dustin Yellin has Intercourse.
Look for Yellin’s next exhibition of sculptures in black and white, and works on paper at The Half Gallery in New York in March, 2012. He also has a piece in The Brucennial 2012, located at 159 Bleeker Street in New York and on display until April 20th, 2012.
Katy Diamond Hamer is an art writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently contributing to Flash Art International, Sleek, NY Magazine, Whitehot Magazine and others. For more of her writing visit: http://www.eyes-towards-the-dove.com
Photograph by Takis Spyropoulos, 2012
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