Eric Yahnker: Sticks & Drones

Art, Drawing and illustration Free
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Eric Yahnker’s got an impeccably cool CV, with degrees in journalism and animation from hip Los Angeles colleges, and stints working on TV shows like ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘South Park’. Naturally, you expect his work to reflect a degree of satirical, pop-cultural savvy. If, however, you also expect that art should be able to provide an alternative to the sort of quick, high-turnover one-linerism that pervades so much of contemporary culture, then unfortunately you’ll find Yahnker’s particular brand of photorealist drawing and sculpture disappointing.

The main problem is that his targets are so obvious. In one huge pencil drawing, Barack Obama gazes out an Oval Office window at Miley Cyrus infamously riding a wrecking-ball. Nearby, wooden cut-outs of the state of Texas wear fishnet, cock-and-ball thongs, while a wall-text in gothic script punningly declares “We the peephole”. The message is that American culture is frequently crass and obsessed with sexual spectacle – I mean, who knew?

Certain works are more subtly effective. A drawing of a pointing finger dipping into a Crisco-brand tub of vegetable shortening nicely addresses advertising’s vapid mixture of suggestion and eroticism. And Yahnker is certainly an extremely skilled draftsman. There’s little sense, though, as to why he makes drawings in the first place, given his sole interest in a final, photographic-looking image. And this issue become exacerbated in drawings where he directly quotes photographic sources: Vladimir Putin with a Crimea-shaped tear, and the legend ‘Crimea River’; some swimsuit-clad honeys from a famous Budweiser ad, here run over by a car; the name Soon-Yi, with the ‘o’s replaced by her husband Woody Allen’s face. The humour feels at once callous and vacuous. You might snicker momentarily if you encountered these kinds of images on a T-shirt or coffee mug; but attempting to pass them off as meaningful artist statements, or as some kind of cogent cultural critique, is simply depressing.

Gabriel Coxhead

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