Deftly mixing pop culture and political satire, Eric Yahnker serves as a virtual seismometer of the current cultural zeitgeist. A deep knowledge of art history and semiotics underpins the coarse, acerbic content of his drawings and sculpture. His work functions as both social critique and a Rorschach test for the viewer.
Yahnker describes Noah’s Yacht as a “tragicomic visual poem whose beats, rhythms, and iambic pentameter are calibrated to the current neo-progressive sociopolitical zeitgeist, its deep passions and unintended pitfalls.” Working primarily with colored pencils and graphite on paper, often in a monumental scale that is typically reserved for painting, Yahnker twists familiar imagery and subjects together into work that is at once incisive and profane. In Precious Patriotism, which features the grotesque face of The Lord Of The Ring’s Gollum sporting a “Make America Great Again” cap, he manages to articulate something specific about the greed, fear and bravado of a certain strain of contemporary populism. In Purple Lives Matter, Yahnker presents the iconic image of a purple-clad Prince preening atop his motorcycle with the regrettably familiar addition of two white police officers facing the artist, weapons drawn.
Yahnker admits that, in a world where political discourse is so slippery that even well defined positions have become nebulous, the process of making this show was as much an uncomfortable self-examination as overarching societal critique. Ultimately, the strength of Yahnker’s work can be found in his ability to corral disparate subject matter in such a way they generate multiple layers of complex meaning. As Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight described, “Yahnker doesn’t court a controlled response for his promiscuous fusions. Instead what these and others of his casual collisions conjure is a carefully selected set of pairings that careen out of conceptual control. That’s a good thing, since pop culture tends to manipulate. By contrast, Yahnker pulls out the rug.”
Recent one man exhibitions of Yahnker’s work include Sticks and Drones at Paradise Row in London, Ebony and Benghazi at Ambach and Rice in Los Angeles, and Virgin Birth n’ Turf at The Hole in New York. Yahnker originally studied journalism at the University of Southern California before transferring to California Institute of the Arts's Character Animation Program where he received his BFA in 2000. Upon graduation, he worked on projects including South Park, MADtv and Seinfeld’s Seinimation. His work has been included in group shows internationally and prominently featured in art fairs including The Armory Show, NADA, and Art Los Angeles Contemporary. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.