Kevin Yates

19 April to 26 May 2012


In 2010, Kevin and his older brother Robert traveled New Orleans, a trip that unintentionally coincided with the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Given that Hurricane Katrina was then a not-so-distant memory, the trip impelled Kevin to re-investigate environmental disaster through the common element visible in both incidences in New Orleans: water. The pieces on view in his current exhibition all relate to water as a mysterious substance that helps and hides: it is equally prone to destruction and holds the potential to destroy.

Kevin once again explores the capacious potential of the miniature with two sculptures of boats. The Emma Maersk, the world’s largest container ship currently in service, is reproduced here as a 71-inch—or 1:220 scale—model. Constructed using a strip wood method—similar to a cedar strip canoe—and loaded with cast aluminum shipping containers, Kevin’s model is distinctly and deliberately crude. Though not connected to the BP oil spill, Kevin’s model of the Emma Maersk references the circulation and extraction of material in bodies of water that remain largely unknowable to most of the world. While the ship is one of the biggest objects on the planet, it participates in a type of displacement that is rarely given notice lest disaster draws our attention to it. Additionally, Kevin’s model of a smaller commercial vessel inserted into a glass bottle is a sculptural feat that mimics the impossible form of the classic folk art puzzle, and to a lesser extent, a message in a bottle. Like his previous series of model houses, Kevin has mirrored the boat along a horizontal axis so that it becomes a symmetrical and closed prism. Coated in a rusty patina, this tiny boat-like form embedded in a bottle reads as a forgotten and clandestine object.

Additionally, Kevin collaborated with Robert, an experimental filmmaker, on videos that highlight the unstable relationship between humans and water. The content of the videos is straightforward: they slid rocks onto the barely frozen surface of a pond—a surface so thin that on camera it appears as if the rocks are floating—and kept the camera running until the rocks broke through the ice. In post-production, Kevin and Robert edited the footage to reverse the sinking of the stones or to create further mirrored (and destabilizing) effects.