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Home FEATURES Eric Yahnker Interview

Eric Yahnker Interview

Written by Ryan Christian   
Monday, 29 June 2009 10:17
"I personally get a kick out of the cable guy who can appreciate my work on his own terms, while the academic art critic can excavate further and appreciate it on theirs."

Interview by Ryan Christian - ryan(at)fecalface.com

So one thing I immediately noticed is that your works and resume begin in 2007. What was going on for you up until then? I know you were working on some television shows. What on earth made you decide to start making these drawings?

I originally started out in journalism, and then worked in comedy and animation for about a decade on shows like South Park, MADtv, and Seinfeld, as well as a fist-full of animated commercials -- some good, some bad. The way I saw it was commercial studios were the only arena left in animation that hadn't yet traded in all their pencils and paper for computers. But, no matter how you slice it, when you're working in commercials, you could be the most brilliant experimental animator, painstakingly manipulating and pixilating hand-pigmented salt with the ass feathers of a Siberian crane on an antique multi-plane camera, win big golden testicles at every prestigious international film festival, and in the end, all the 'powers that be' will say is, "boy howdy, that's gorgeous! Can you do that for my client, Gas-X?" In August 2004, I just quit everything, rented a studio, and started making work.

COCAINE - colored pencil on paper - 30 x 44 in. - 2007

Berry Astonished - colored pencil on paper - 44 x 30 in. - 2009

KARMA - colored pencil on paper - 30 x 44 in. - 2008

Another thing that comes to my attention quickly is noticing that almost all of your 2d work is really large. You seem to really whiz through these, while being able to retain a pretty astonishing amount of detail. How do you approach a giant blank piece of paper?

The larger the drawing, the easier it is to perfect details. Graphite and me have gotten past the awkward dating stage and are keeping a toothbrush and set of p.j.'s at each other's places. Colored pencil is getting there, even though on occasion it plays hard to get or won't return my call. I consciously like my work to maintain a look of ease, but I do log a ton of hours. Like Charlie Chaplin said, "art is the concealment of effort."

Fingering (Italian Prunes) - graphite on paper - 72 x 52.5 in. - 2009

Fingering (Sweet Butter) - graphite on paper - 40 x 52.5 in. - 2009

Guacstika - colored pencil on paper - 30 x 22 in. - 2008

Hello Dolly Scramble - graphite on paper - 65 x 52.5 in. - 2008

Something I am always hearing in the art world is the phrase "one liners". Your work is definitely humorous, do you think the pieces transcend being "one liners"? What are your thoughts on the whole "one liner" issue?

Guilty as charged. But, I can also draw a straight philosophical line from Confucius to Rodney Dangerfield. I don't know how clarity got such a bum rap, but I personally get a kick out of the cable guy who can appreciate my work on his own terms, while the academic art critic can excavate further and appreciate it on theirs.

Her Happiness Scramble - graphite on paper - 84 x 84 in. - 2009

Hit It n' Quit It - graphite on paper - 75 x 97 in. - 2009

Selected Reading (Nausea) - graphite on paper - 70 x 52.5 in. - 2009

Your work has a lot of pop imagery and reference in it. How do you decide on your content, given the vast amount of pop trash, imagery, and incidents you have to choose from?

I prepare a show the same way a comedian prepares stand-up material. I pull from everywhere -- my own dirty laundry included. The fact that a large portion of my work has a decidedly Hollywood-bent is likely a consequence of spending my whole life in la-la-land.

L.A. - colored pencil on paper - 30 x 44 in. - 2008

Liberace, You Sneaky S.O.B. #2 - graphite on paper - 62.5 x 52.5 in. - 2008

Light Reading - graphite on paper - 69 x 92 in. - 2008

In your drawings we start to see some "mini series" of sorts. The text pieces, the "fictional characters reading real books" pieces, etc...you know what I mean. How does this plus the performance and sculpture all come together in your mind?

It all swims in the same murky stew. Every concept has its perfect medium. The trick is to find it.

Selected Reading (The Jews) - graphite and colored pencil on paper - 70 x 52.5 in.

TESTICLE - colored pencil on paper - 39 x 52.5 in. - 2009

What do you think your collective body of work thus far says?

That I'm a great lover.

Turdhat #3 - graphite on paper - 44 x 30 in. - 2007

Turdhat #5 - graphite on paper - 44 x 30 in. - 2007

Could you tell us a bit about your show @ Ambach and Rice, "Naughty Teens/Garbanzo Beans" (running till August 9, 2009 in Seattle)?

This show is like a sexy poem. I want these pieces to flash in your mind when you're pissing in the shower.

Anything else noteworthy coming up?

I've got a few group shows upcoming in L.A., Chicago, Portland (Maine).

Weave Me Tender - colored pencil on paper - 44 x 30 in. - 2009

War & Piece of Ass - graphite and colored pencil on paper - 84 x 84 in. - 2009

Helen Keller Joke #1 - toilet with upright plunger - 20 x 28 x 27 in. - 2006

What do you find inspirational to you and your work right now?

That my country and I have some things in common again. Hello, old friend...what's it been? Like 8 years?

What do you find highly uninspiring to you right now? (people places books food music other artists etc...)

Prop 8 is a joke. I hope when the dust settles, the definition of marriage will include marrying a well-manicured lawn if I want to. I can't believe that someone's rights should even come down to a ballot measure -- especially in California.

Helen Keller Joke #4 - cup, toothbrush, Preparation H - 6.5 x 3 x 3 in. - 2007

99 Rises/100 Falls - 99 "Rise & Fall" books - installation dimensions variable - 2008

American Socrates - Stephen R. Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly - Effective People" re-written with my foot - 11 x 8.5 x 11.5 in. - 2006

Future you is a prestigous art critic. How would you describe the work/movements happening right now?

Jasper Johns (circa 1965): "Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it." Current: "Google something. Google something else. Photoshop it."

Beegeesus - Bible completely whited-out except that - which sequentially spells 'Beegees' - 13 x 10 x 10 in. - 2005

Is there anything that absolutely terrifies you?

Yes. Alzheimer's and kitty AIDS.

Exhibition shots from Eric's show currently running in Seattle

5107 Ballard Ave. N.W.
Seattle, WA 98107

Eric Yahnker was born in Torrance, California. He received his B.F.A. in animation from the California Institute Of Arts and studied journalism at University of Southern California. Recent exhibitions include Dolly Parton Behind A Tree, Kim Light Gallery, Los Angeles, L.A. Potential, HangART-7, Salzburg, Austria, curated by Hubert Schmalix, Roger Herman, and Found/Gevonden/Trouve, Voorkamer, Lier, Belgium. He currently works and resides in Los Angeles, California. {moscomment}

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