Dustin Yellin adds his mark in L.A. with art that’s a ‘missile for social change’

October 14 2015
Los Angeles Times
By Deborah Vankin

Dustin Yellin is an artist who comes in many guises.

In Vanity Fair last month, Yellin, posing naked but for mismatched socks and eyeglasses at his Brooklyn studio, was presented as the art world’s “it boy.”

Other images in the media collage that is his public history: Yellin break-dancing in Jay Z’s 2013 performance art video, “Picasso Baby”; the sky-high dollar amounts that his elaborate sculptures command (one installation went for $1.7 million in a private sale at Sotheby’s last year); Yellin’s romance with actress Michelle Williams; the time in the late ’90s when he was accidentally stabbed in the leg by model-actress Bijou Phillips; and the artist’s 1999 mental breakdown, which landed him in a psych ward — but not before he recorded the entire episode, ultimately turning it into a performance art video called “The Crack-Up.”

Then there’s Yellin the nice Jewish mensch, who has brought his 87-year-old Nanna to the Hollywood construction site where his newest sculptural installation will be unveiled on Thursday.

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Wearing a faded Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and black jeans, the scruffy-haired 40-year-old takes his Nanna’s hand, leans in and asks with a sheepish smile, “What ya think?” Just for today, the brown butcher paper covering the artworks has been removed for a private viewing.

“Oh, it’s awesome. I was blown away,” Anita Kaplan tells her grandson, before heading home with her caretaker to Westwood.

“OK, bye, Nanna. I’ll see you later,” Yellin calls after her, waving.

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Six Yellin sculptures — towering glass and stainless-steel encasements housing elaborate collages that from afar look like 3-D human forms — were commissioned by Kilroy Realty Corp. for a Hollywood redevelopment project on Sunset Boulevard, just east of Vine Street. The company says that the installation is valued at $1.5 million. The six-building Columbia Square compound, opened in 1938, was for decades the site of CBS’ West Coast radio and TV operations. It’s now being turned into a $450-million “mixed-use creative campus” with workspaces, retail stores and restaurants. Yellin’s towering sculptures occupy the central courtyard facing Sunset.

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