Artist Spotlight: Marc Yankus
BY Christopher Harrity
October 01 2011 4:00 AM ET
Over the last three decades, Marc Yankus has built a reputation as an artist who creates imagery with an uncanny eye for the beauty inherent in the urban landscape and its denizens.
His luminous art photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States and in international art shows. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, Exit Art, and ClampArt in New York City and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Yankus’s artwork has graced the covers of books by Salmon Rushdie, Philip Roth, and Alan Hollinghurst, among many others. His images have also been used for theatrical posters for acclaimed Broadway shows such as Jane Eyre, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Doubt. Additionally, Yankus’s photographs have appeared both on the covers and internal pages of numerous publications, ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Photo District News.
Yankus’s photography was recently included in the Rizzoli photo book New York: A Photographer's City.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the department of prints and photographs at the Library of Congress have acquired his work for their permanent collections. His work also appears in many private collections.
Fall of 2011 marks his third one-person exhibition at ClampArt, 521-531 W. 25th St., New York City. The exhibition will run from November 3 to December 17.
The Advocate: Why are you a photographer?
Marc Yankus: I studied painting in college at School of Visual Arts in New York City and had always drawn on sketch pads since I was a little kid. Collage was a passion of mine led to photo montage using images cut out from books I bought from the Strand bookstore. Over time I felt limited by what I could find and I started to shoot with a camera to generate my images. This sparked a transformation, and gradually I realized I had unknowingly become a photographer in the process.
What catches your eye?
What I try to capture in my photographs are the city’s moments of tranquility, especially at dusk when night falls. The looming shapes, diffused light, and spectral shadows infuse this daily recurring transition with a hushed feeling of magic and anticipation.
Tell us about your process or techniques.
I photograph with a Canon 5D Mark II. I compose my images using a combination of layered textures and digital adjustments.
What artist do you take inspiration from and why?
While an art student I was taken by the work of the painter Eric Fischl, the photographer Robert Frank, and the many 19th-century paintings at the Metropolitan. They spoke to me. I enjoyed the naughtiness of Fischl's paintings, the line drawings of Egon Schiele, the striking graphic black-and-white photographs of Robert Frank, and the beauty of the paintings at the Met.
Your models seem to be in a very deep place. How do you work with them to get such a great sense of stillness and repose?
It's about honesty and trust. I select people I intuitively sense share sensibilities in common with me.
Your New York City shots are so romantic. Tell us more about your relationship with the city — when you first were impressed by it visually?
I was 11, after my parents divorced. My mother chose to move into the city to live with her future second husband. We left a beautiful green bucolic community on Long Island by the water to the gray urban landscape. Standing outside on the edge of the sidewalk listening for the first time to the roar of the city, the tall urban gray buildings were so overwhelming and impressive. It was a powerful transforming moment and very exciting.