Artists Bring Meaning to Abstraction at Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls is an exhibit currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum which features work by Brooklyn-based artists Maya Hayuk and Kennedy Yanko. Featured at the museum now through July 28th, 2024, the exhibit captures the way that four different artists play with color and space through abstract art. Each artist is given a wall, and two of these were given to Maya Hayuk and Kennedy Yanko, both of whom have made a huge impact, each in their own way, on the walls of the exhibit hall and in the world of modern art.

Walking into the exhibit, I hit Kennedy Yanko’s impressive display first. Kennedy is a sculpture and installation artist, known for her use of found materials (namely, metal). She is also known for her technique of “paint skins,” in which she pours large amounts of paint in thick layers and lets it dry, then manipulates it into rippling, flowing shapes. Her paint skins, when combined with similarly manipulated metal, play off of each other, sometimes looking indistinguishable from one another, together achieving a distinct aesthetic one would not have thought possible from either material.

Click image to enlarge.

Kennedy’s piece for the Brooklyn Museum, titled No more Drama, utilizes these techniques to create an impressive display of massive structures, which explode from and take over her wall. Looking over the piece, I found myself zooming into certain pieces of metal, attempting to identify what they were, saying things like “that looks like a hubcap.” As I continued on my journey across the wall, I realized that these sorts of labels and ideas were exactly what Kennedy was trying to dismantle (both literally and figuratively). 

In her artist statement, she said, “As a sculptor whose practice is built upon paradox, my work addresses how human perception and societal expectations are often in conflict. I utilize reframing to challenge what we think we understand, and ask viewers to investigate realities outside of their learned ways of seeing.” 

Seeing the shapes and textures that Kennedy can achieve with metal and paint will forever change the way I see these materials.

Abandoning the need to identify objects in Kennedy’s materials, I gave into pure perception, letting the fascinating curves, folds, and wrinkles take my thoughts and imagination where they might. Seeing the shapes and textures that Kennedy can achieve with metal and paint will forever change the way I see these materials. Or maybe, I am now just truly seeing them for the first time. The colors incorporated throughout, especially the bright orangey-red that weaves its way through the piece, has an emotional effect that can’t quite be named. This experience overall was difficult to put into words, but in a way, that’s the point. 

Across the hall was Maya Hayuk’s display. Maya is a Ukrainian-American artist known for her large-scale murals, which feature bright colors and geometric patterns. Maya’s piece, titled Frontline Flashpoints Facing East, Ukraine, is a strong example of her signature style: it’s a large, repeated diamond pattern filled with radiating, eye-catching rays. The colors feature blues and yellows — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — as well as burnt oranges, browns, and greens. Even spotting Maya’s piece from across the room, you must stop and stare at its sheer visual presence for a moment to fully take it in. Then, the most exciting part comes when you move closer, and examine each iteration of the pattern more closely; then, you find that no piece of the mural is the same.

Click image to enlarge.

With Frontline Flashpoints Facing East, Ukraine, Maya utilizes a uniform, repetitive pattern, yet she also embraces imperfection. Upon closer examination, you’ll find paint drips and splatters, and a lack of uniformity in the stripes of color. This artistic style, along with the colors, serve as a powerful depiction of a concept that is far from abstract: the frontlines of the war in the Ukraine — at sunrise. The museum’s description of the piece states: “Hayuk’s Ukrainian heritage as well as current geopolitical events inspire her to express abstracted physical and psychological landscapes of the war’s front line, simulating the flash points of explosions intersecting with the hope of sunrise.” The explosions may be repetitive, in planned-out patterns, but the sunrise is imperfect and new every time, and the hope it inspires is as spontaneous as a splatter of paint. Thus, Frontline Flashpoints Facing East, Ukraine.

They are not just patterns, not just numbers, but humans, who each make their own unique mark on the world. 

To me, these imperfections also bring a tangible and visible indication that there is an artist — a human — behind the painting. Thinking more about the subject of the piece, I found myself coming to a further interpretation, which may or may not have been intended by Maya: amidst strict regimes and militaristic practices, we must remember the individuality of the people under attack. They are not just patterns, not just numbers, but humans, who each make their own unique mark on the world. 

After my visit to the Brooklyn Abstraction exhibit, I am not only proud to be a fellow resident of Brooklyn with Maya Hayuk and Kennedy Yanko, but I am also so glad to know their art. Both No more Drama and Frontline Flashpoints Facing East, Ukraine utilized techniques that inspired me to look further into the ways in which abstraction can change the way I see the world. Both, as well, inspired completely new and unique emotions within me, emotions which can’t quite be named. The best I can do is recommend you take a trip to the Brooklyn Museum and see, and feel, the art for yourself. 

© Julia Lasker (2/14/24) – Special for FF2 Media ®


Visit the Brooklyn Abstraction exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

Visit Kennedy Yanko’s website here.

Check out Maya Hayuk’s website here.


Featured photo: Portrait of artist Maya Hayuk by blacklunchtable is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED.

First middle photo: No more Drama, 2022. Paint skins, metal. From the installation Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls. Photo Credit: Brooklyn Museum.

Second middle photo: Frontline Flashpoints Facing East, Ukraine, 2022. Acrylic on Baltic birch panel. From the installation Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls. Photo Credit: Brooklyn Museum.

Bottom photo: Portrait of artist Kennedy Yanko by Antoine “Noemad” Reid is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED.

Tags: Brooklyn Abstraction, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn-based artist, female sculpture artist, female visual artists, Frontline Flashpoints Facing East Ukraine, Julia Lasker, Kennedy Yanko, Maya Hayuk, No more Drama, paint skins, Ukrainian-American artist

Related Posts

As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
Previous Post Next Post