Cultured Magazine

June/July 2015

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Page 149 of 219

148 CULTURED n his 15,000-square-foot studio in Brooklyn, Dustin Yellin is something of the art world mad scientist. He's even been known to call his studio a laboratory. The whiskery 39-year-old artist's Psychogeography series is made up of what he calls "microscope slides"—giant glass slabs—on which he strategically collages images into a human form and then presses the slides together to form beautifully textured, figurative sculptures. In February, a dozen of these sculptures were included in a dance performance done in collaboration with the New York City Ballet as part of its annual NYCB Art Series. Yellin customized his sculptures for the piece, the human forms frozen in mid-pirouettes and pliés. "I love the trope of the artist as choreographer—arranging a dance of elements, colors," Yellin says. "Figuring out the way the body and mind—the visual and physical—flow together and come to a stasis. What I hoped to dramatize with this specific show was a flow of energy and materials, the muscle memory turned into an image, with the pieces reassembled to tell a story of the ceremony of time." Along with experiments pertaining to the body, Yellin recently made headlines with an experiment with money. Collaborating with artist collective Bazaar Teens at the Spring/Break Art Show during this year's Armory Arts Week, Yellin received $10,000 from an anonymous donor and promptly shredded the cash and affixed the fiscal tatters to a canvas in an act of hubris that he even he called a "stunt." But the eight "paintings" held a scruffy aesthetic value and a bit of danger—it's illegal to destroy U.S. currency—as well as an ironic twist in that they were each available for $10,000. Despite the criticism, Yellin explains that his work is ever evolving, and that, in the end, any proceeds made by sales of the work would go toward eight grants for high school seniors interested in continuing their arts education. "My work has become more complex, more involved, more ambitious, more narrative," he says, referring to this and The Tryptich, a 12-ton landscape done in the style of Psychogeography that showed at Sotheby's S2 Gallery in New York, before being displayed at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. "Art that is artifice, but not artificial." And then there's the Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, an exhibition space and school Yellin set up to foster the intersection between art, science and education. Established in 2011, in the old Pioneer Iron Works building in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, Pioneer Works has exhibited work by artists such as Rachel Sussman, Mark Hogancamp, Julia Weist and Sara Cwynar, as well as playing host to the critically acclaimed 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. On the education front, Pioneer Works holds classes with names like "Thinking Like a Scientist" and "Functional and Intuitive Art," the latter taught by legendary artist and musician Genesis P-Orridge. "What's exciting about our programming is we're not just putting up contemporary art shows," Yellin says. "We're researching and presenting things in a manner that works best for the work. And the artists who come through here— like at Black Mountain College—teach here, offering courses on pigments, dyes, microscopy. We encourage trans- disciplinary thinking, and that's how we go about programming. It's more about social change through art and science as a conduit." Pioneer Works also has residencies, events and a publishing arm, giving it a dynamic, institutional feel that has attracted the attention of Sienna Miller, Alexa Chung, Robert Pattinson, Kate Hudson and Lucy Liu, all of whom attended the latest fundraising effort—a pig roast that raised $950,000 (and counting) for the cultural center. "My feeling was that it could actually house the artists that were making the art or developing the science that contribute to what was being experienced on the white wall," says Yellin, who hopes Pioneer Works will be around long after he's gone. "I want poets and painters talking to biologists and violinists. I believe it can all happen under one roof—a school, a lab, a museum, a publishing house, a recording studio, a place where ideas come together to help spawn new ideas that spawn into actions." Contributing Editor Laura de Gunzburg sits down with Yellin in his studio to discuss the evolution of Psychogeography. How did the Psychogeography works first develop? I started these about seven years ago after thinking about a piece of art as not some discretely bounded thing, but as existing in a group. It's about the entirety of the groups of figures. I was thinking about the terracotta warriors in Xi'an... These works are like herds of proto-futuristic humans trapped in 3,000- pound microscope slides. I was trying to get away from "art as object" and create an experience on a one-to-one scale. Did you always know you were going to be an artist? Not necessarily, because I don't think in those terms. I happen to make objects that fall under the rubric of art. But I also tie my shoes, chew gum and surf. I don't want any of those things to define me. I always knew that I wanted to be free. I guess I began creating like an artist when I began to uncover the masked meaning of common objects. I used to find things in the street, the forest; they were beautiful and had the ability to reveal something hidden. I realized it was more a matter of how you see things, than what you see. You used to work in resin. When did you transition to glass and has that impacted your greater vision? The resin was toxic and I couldn't take working in those conditions anymore. Working with glass allows for greater control in the process. I can shuffle the panes to revise and edit and re-order. As a result, the detail, complexity and depth in the pieces have exploded, but those findings developed accidentally. I "I want poets and painters talking to biologists and violinists. I believe it can all happen under one roof: a school, a lab, a museum, a publishing house." —Dustin Yellin

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