Ebony & Benghazi
A&R is pleased to announce Ebony & Benghazi, a solo exhibition of new drawings and sculptures by Eric Yahnker. The exhibit deploys an unflinching comedic analysis of the Western world's fixation on choice and its increasingly polarizing ramifications. Ransacking populist imagery to root out the suppressed architecture of social structures, Yahnker shines a perverse light on the stalemate between red state/blue state ideologies and the walls erected to perpetually reinforce this imbalance. Just as the fireman needs a dragon, Yahnker foresees this entropic struggle as part of a futile, but necessary cycle that allows bored Americans to feel a sense of moral vigilance and nationalism amidst perceived threats in a post-9/11 era. Utilizing virtuosic renderings and slap dash assemblages, Yahnker's crass parsing of dogmas bait the viewer into participating in a dead end game of moral Darwinism. Often delineating unlikely connections with paired and contrasting images, Yahnker's conceptual approach echoes Burger King's farcical slogan, "Have it your way!"
Ebony & Benghazi, a 7" Stevie Wonder record aside an Associated Press photo of Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings is an apt example of this visual gamesmanship. Both Wonder and Clinton are featured in near identical poses, with right fists in the air, mouths agape, sporting rectangular black-rimmed glass. Only their respective facial expressions, skin color, and obvious context mark the differences between the two photos. The title is a riff on Wonder's schmaltzy, feel good, 80's anthem of unity, Ebony & Ivory, performed as a duet with Paul McCartney. Yahnker juxtaposes these images to expose two prevailing fears galvanizing the conservative movement in this country: the dread of a successful two-term presidency under Barack Obama (Ebony), and the looming anxiety of a potential two-term presidency under Hillary Clinton (Benghazi).
The ongoing perversion and polarization of the American political system and our society's limited and entrenched views on a multitude of social constructs are contrasted throughout the exhibit. For instance, in the colored pencil drawings Jugs of Steel (A Cold Day in Hell) and its companion piece Woolly Woman, gender is absurdly and explicitly implicated, while our penchant for 'profiling' is revealed to be used as much to identify society's hoodlums as its heroes. The first, a monumental circular portrait of Christopher Reeves’ stretching his iconic skintight Superman ensemble over ample breasts and nipples sharp enough to cut glass, and the latter featuring Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman revealing body hair more reminiscent of a Grecian plumber. Here one finds socialization at odds with biological predisposition, and begs the question: what constitutes a modern-day hero? And, does this profiled 'hero' epitomize a specific gender, race, class, political stripe, or super-sized cod piece? Furthermore, which superpowers should society allow its heroes to wield in order to save our mortal skin, or do we subconsciously handcuff them to proverbial kryptonite in order to maintain the status quo?
More often than not Yahnker is content to provoke the viewers into deciding on their own whether or not a work possesses subtext or is simply a one-liner. Laughing is praise enough, but lurking below this absurd and fictive plane is a determined artist seeking the truth, even if it means telling a butt joke or two.
Eric Yahnker was born in Torrance, California in 1976. He received his BFA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. Recent exhibits include Virgin Birth n’ Turf (solo), The Hole, New York, NY, Party Sub/Sub Party (solo), The Armory Show, New York, NY, and Rogue Wave (group), L.A. Louver, Venice, CA. He lives and works in Los Angeles.