Artist and founder, Pioneer Works
Jun 16, 2022
Not many organizations can boast an advisory board made up of the likes of David Byrne, Darren Aronofsky, Rick Rubin, Esperanza Spaulding, Ben Lerner and Princess Eugenie of York. And few, if any, institutions are as sprawling in their missions as Pioneer Works, an incubator and programming space in a former Red Hook factory dedicated to “production across the disciplines of art, science, music, and technology.”
Pioneer Works, which turns 10 this year (and plans to reopen to the public in July after a months-long renovation), is the brainchild of Dustin Yellin, one of his generation’s most hyped and ambitious visual artists. Before opening Pioneer Works, Yellin made his name by making collages encased in blocks of resin — and later glass — that grew larger over time. His most well-known project is perhaps the Psychogeographies series of 6-foot- 8-inch blocks with collages that look like human bodies from a distance. Up close, the viewer can see that the bodies are made of Hieronymous Bosch-style scenes set in ecological habitats and various otherworldly scenes. He has said his works freeze “the DNA of our culture.”
“I like to think of it as a catalog of humanity as a composite of infinite interactions between cultural adaptations and genetic projections,” he said at a TED talk in 2015.
Years before his Psychogeographies sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece, Yellin’s grandiosity and magnetism drew the elite of the New York art and fashion worlds into his orbit — and to his apartment-studio-salon in Manhattan, a renovated former stable. That is, until his drug habits and some well-documented run-ins with the law tempered his social scene, forcing him to take things down a notch and eventually open Pioneer Works. This helped him refocus on his work and his other passion: networking and collaborating with cross-disciplinary thinkers and artists, ranging from novelists to Columbia University physicists.
Which invites the question: Is Pioneer Works a more fully-realized, 21st-century version of Andy Warhol’s Factory?
“It’s not. Dustin is more generous,” former advisory board member Bob Colacello told Vanity Fair. “He has exhibitions and workspace for other artists. He has a radio station, a recording studio, scientists, a photo lab, a 3D printer, an education program.”
Eat your heart out, Andy.