Paul Yank: His Genius Sculpture & Prints

May 18 – September 24, 2023

Opening Reception:
Saturday, May 20, 3 PM to 5:30 PM

The sculptures exemplify a balance of strength, lightness, hard forms, and delicacy

His ability to think and create three-dimensionally was where his true genius lived.

Paul Yank

Renowned Cedarburg artist Paul J. Yank left an incredible legacy as a beloved mentor, talented printmaker, and master sculptor. His ability to think and create three-dimensionally was where his true genius lived. Yank’s early career was dominated by large-scale sculptural creations while in his late career, the artist focused on printmaking and used it as a vehicle to continue realizing his three-dimensional inspirations. His unique approach to printmaking, drawing, and painting was always sculptural in nature. In this exhibition, a selection of Yank’s prolific oeuvre will be featured, representing his high level of expertise in both sculpture and printmaking.

Yank was encouraged throughout his early life to pursue a career in the arts. During his formative years in catholic school, he created artworks that drew the attention of the nuns, so much so that they began to ask him to draw for projects that increased in complexity and importance as he got older. This encouragement was what he needed to put a more conventional career path to the side. He received a BFA from the progressive Layton School of Art (later known as the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design or MIAD) in 1958. With this artistic groundwork, he would later study sculpture at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and when he entered the U.S. Marine Corps, he studied bridge engineering while also studying art at the Kyoto University in Japan for three and a half years. His years as a student stirred his imagination and instilled a deep interest in other cultures, giving him a foundation to explore multiple art mediums.

Upon receiving his degree in 1958, Yank was selected in a national competition for an artist-in-residence at Milwaukee’s natural history museum, known today as the Milwaukee Public Museum. During his seven years there, he studied cultural anthropology while designing and building figural sculptures for the Native American, African, and Old Milwaukee departments. By the mid-1960s, Yank had transitioned his avocation to his full-time career and began making large scale sculptures, fountains, and wall reliefs to fulfill commissions for corporate, public, and private venues.

Yank moved his family to Cedarburg in 1966, purchasing the former Weber Brewery building complex for use as a larger studio space. It was there he created the most significant pieces of his career and helped create a community that encouraged artistic expression and growth. Over the years, Yank enhanced Cedarburg’s reputation as an artist colony when he transformed the 1840s stone building into a welding and printmaking studio, gallery space for local artists, and an educational center for instructional classes in sculpture, painting, drawing, life drawing, and printmaking. In the early 1970s, he helped establish the Firehouse Fine Arts Association which later became known as the Wisconsin Fine Arts Association and subsequently as the Ozaukee Art Center when it moved to the historic Washington School and then to Yank’s brewery complex. Up until his death, Yank continued to be a mentor, shared his university-quality presses, and instructed artists in various types of printmaking.