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The Sixth Man: Joshua Bienko

‘Walk through the night, gently moving that thigh, that second thigh, and that left leg".
16 x 20 inches, Oil on linen
‘Walk through the night, gently moving that thigh, that second thigh, and that left leg". 16 x 20 inches, Oil on linen

When you meet Joshua Bienko – it does not take more than a few seconds to realize he is ready. Josh is ready to talk, ready to listen and ready to show you what he has. Bienko, an Associate Professor of Art at UT Knoxville and Founder and Director of C for Courtside is all over the art world.  A player, a coach and a negotiator – he is steadily influencing and making his mark.

We both grew up with a strong love for athletics – specifically Basketball. Our love for sports and movement has pushed us both far in life – we are often exhausted but always grateful when we get in the game, when we are invited to lecture, to collaborate and to create our work. Bienko, a New York native has created a beautiful life in Knoxville, TN and in 2018 founded a new artist run space, C for Courtside. He also just earned tenure at The University of Knoxville TN. Both are huge events, and are the result of years of working and hustling – often without acclaim and headlines. This grit and and passion are a few of the many traits that makes Bienko someone to watch.

Untitled – Drawing, Marker, 16×20 inches / 2018

His work toes the line with a confidence and sensitivity that the best athletes always carry. This means showing up every day with an awareness of one’s ability and the courage to compete while also being very aware of one’s own possibility to improve. He is a student of the game.

‘Untitled’ – Drawing, Marker, 16×20 inches / 2018

Self-imposed parameters to improve performance are important in both the arts and athletics. This means planning your workout to a “T” in basketball or limiting your color palate as an artist to hone in on space, mood or form in your paintings. In a recent series of works on paper with marker – Bienko attempts to create grey without using grey.  Attempting to build to a sense of colorless-ness while using color is challenging but it’s been on Bienko’s mind with his preparation for new work. There is a tension and an anxiety within the calm of Bienko’s work – forms that reference the body center the painting while atmosphere and landscape compose the perimeters. Mark making is as important as it gets for Bienko – sharp lines, fast lines, rhythmic lines dance around his drawings and paintings equalizing whatever tension is at first noticeable.

Bienko is a painter – but his work is an ode to his drawings. His attention to the world around him carries him through time spent teaching and curating. I don’t believe in gambling but if I did, I’d put whatever money I had on Bienko’s work and influence in the art world. The sixth man in basketball is the one that comes off the bench and saves the team. The sixth man is the MVP without being an egomaniac and often the one with the most assists.  They are so talented but brave enough to help others along the way.

All My Goodness 6, 16 x 20 inches, Oil on linen

In one of Bienko’s paintings titled, All my Goodness, the painting’s urgency and the courage are apparent. The handsomely painted dress shoe is sliding away and is a stand in for speed, style and work ethic. However the brazenly painted dress shoe is off set by the beauty and allure of heals hiding and dancing below. This painting is an entry point, an invitation and most importantly, an assist.

If I were you, I’d follow him, I’d pass him the ball, I’d start him and I’d guarantee you’d learn more than you thought you could.

Joshua Bienko’s Instagram account is: @joshuabienko

His work can be found on:

C for Courtside: