Sculptor and painter reflects on 15 years in Long Island City

Chris Yockey
Photo by Marcin Zurawicz

Artist Christopher Yockey has made Long Island City his home and the site where he creates his intricate sculptures and paintings.

Raised in Detroit, Yockey has always been interested in art and was introduced to the sculptures of Mark di Suvero in high school. Di Suvero, an abstract expressionist sculpture who grew up in California, is known for his large-scale outdoor pieces made of steel plates and H-beams. Much of his work is built to rotate and swing.

“Experiencing di Suvero’s work changed my notion of what sculpture meant to me,” Yockey said. “Ironically, I work for him today.”

The artist, who graduated from Elmira College and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, showcased a piece of art at Socrates Sculpture Park in 2005. The outdoor museum and park, a former abandoned landfill and illegal dumping ground in Long Island City, was established by di Suvero in 1986 as a place where artists can present their sculptures and multimedia installations.

Since his initial introduction to the Long Island City arts scene in 2005, Yockey has worked with di Suvero for 15 years at his studio just north of the of the museum and park and has showcased his work all over the world. His pieces are inspired by the way he perceives and interacts with motion and form. As an avid hockey player, Yockey has long been interested in movement and this interest is translated into his work.

“Being an ice hockey player at heart, I admire poetic movements of skaters, and respect the spacial relationships of the game with the opposing players,” Yockey said.

The artist is also fascinated with the “driving force of the automotive culture,” something he attributes to growing up in Motor City. His work ranges from large, expansive outdoor sculptures, to smaller, more intricate paintings. By working with the tight-knit artist community at Socrates Sculpture Park, Yockey said he has learned “the importance of community.”

“Either through members of the neighborhood or working with other artists I have learned,” he added. “Listening and sharing of ideas helps create open-mindedness and this shows the strength of our community.”

Katie Horowitz, director of development and communications for Socrates Sculpture Park said Yockey has been an invaluable part of the space’s community.

“Not only has Chris shown his own artwork at the park ―he was part of our Broadway Billboard program in 2005―but he has also offered his technical insight and expertise to help realize innumerable installations by other artists shown at the park,” Horowitz said.

Yockey has also become a frequent visitor of the park, attending the openings, art workshops and performances with his daughter.

Recently, Yockey has exhibited his work at the Weathervane gallery in Brooklyn. He is working on a new body of work, playing with scale to see how increasing the canvas size affects his designs. Working from his original paintings ― he used gouache, a type of opaque watercolor to create them ― he will then transfer these designs onto a larger canvas with acrylic paint.

He has also been working on a new set of sculptures. Yockey has been utilizing pieces of 22-inch by 30-inch drawing paper to create rigid, layered panels to create three-dimensional works. As an artist who uses industrial materials to create his work, Yockey has seen his work shift and change as the industrial world does as well.

“As the industrialized world continues to evolve, I wonder how this is influencing my creative process as a maker, from my usage of technology to craftsmanship,” Yockey said. “My goal is to capture the essence of motion without movement in sculpture and painting.”




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