Eric Yahnker: Virgin Birth ‘N’ Turf
The Hole, New York
September 4th- October 6th, 2012
Eric Yahnker deflowers a New York audience in his first solo show in the city, Virgin Birth ‘N’ Turf at The Hole. As deflowering normally goes, Yahnker’s show is quick, filled with awkward taboos, unpredictable, and above all, unforgettable. If we sound disappointed, we're not. Yahnker comments on some seriously repetitive, serious stuff garnished with humor to serve us some Southern, LA-based comfort as well as discomforting food.
Most-impressively, Yahnker’s speed works swimmingly with his girth, as his quick-witted tact renders deep referent-symbol association. We find this most apparent in his signet fingering of political and racial follies. Very literally, Yahnker assaults past and present presidents with ambiguous digits through the unfolding dichotomy of Fingering Bush and Fingering Glory from 2012. Two of his larger drawings hang next to each other, creating a vis-à-vis comparison between canned goods as well as allusions to George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
We could attempt grander pontifications here that would actualize Yahnker’s personal opinion, however we have enough to work with by simply confronting Yahnker’s representation of two moribund ideologies that purport to polarize our bipartisanship. The artist attacks contemporary cant through in-your-face depictions of gross and gooey groceries. These unforgiving works remind us that fine art has a place for cartoons and caricatures. (Proponents of French Modernism collegiate courses applaud now for my implicit throw back to Daumier!)
As Yahnker gathers us around the proverbial dinner table, he asks his guests to ponder postmodern banality along with socially constructed taboos mainly relating to the discontinuity of our political period. An artist has an overwhelming and up-hill battle against a yawning and jaded audience if he or she wishes to “do” something with his or her artwork, now a day. Yahnker combats this by filling his drawing and installation with tense asperity and by exhibiting his vaulting draftsmanship.
As much as my male friends would love a miniature String Theory to place on their desks in the office, I cannot disregard Yahnker’s cunning eye for limpid lines and refusal to accept exuberance, solely, from a finished work. The more I look for something wrong with the artist’s ironic subject matter, the more I begin to fancy his flair for juxtaposition as well as exposing the subliminal in works that truly benefit from it. In the series Long Banged, Yahnker’s word play alone pulls at your humble art critic’s heartstrings.
I accept that the typical day of the American, whether she be “the obscenely overweight” whom David Foster Wallace described or the ascetic anorexic, revolves around food. Unlike the Fluxus who embraces food for its inherent goodness, Yahnker introduces operatic manipulation of editable iconography and, in turn, eventually shoots his audience in the face with an exploding load of spaghetti bolognaise, just how we love it. He replaces the miraculous (a bullet wound) with the mundane (chili cheese fries). In Chili Fries Without A Face, the artist bevels the surface of an unseen victim’s skull with an implosion of grotesque french fry guts.
Yahnker’s Virgin Birth ‘N’ Turf compartmentalizes the American dream and all its glory, however profound, patronizing, and pathetic it may be.
Megan M. Garwood graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, receiving a Bachelor of Arts concentrating in the History of Modern Art with a minor in Ethical Analysis and Morality. Once in New York City she paid her dues as a gallery girl, first at Bjorn Ressle Fine Art and next at Marlborough Chelsea. For the past three years she has worked as an Arts and Culture freelance writer for multiple international publications. Each morning she still asks herself if she feels more like a urinal than a work of art, only because “R.Mutt” is scrawled across her left shoulder.