Eric Yahnker: "The Long Goodbye" at CAM Raleigh Flip Book
The Hole NYC
Limited Edition only (50) printed.
Soft-cover 50 pages
The Long Goodbye
July 7th – September 10th, 2017
Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh
409 W Martin Street
Raleigh, North Carolina
CAM Raleigh is pleased to present the first museum solo show by Eric Yahnker. In a site-specific installation of drawing and video, Yahnker takes the 44th President Barack Obama as his subject in “The Long Goodbye.” Wrapping around the three walls of our main exhibition space are installed a sequential series of 44 pastel on paper drawings that, when viewed in sequence or on the video in the center of the space, depict every frame of a short video of Obama dropping the mic at the 2016 White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
This intersection of drawing and animation hearken’s back to Yahnker’s roots as a student of animation at CalArts and his early work on South Park and other animated shows. The political subject and emotional content are a signature in the artist’s oeuvre, an LA-based artist whose main output is drawing and main subject is cultural critique. Since 2008, Yahnker has had solo exhibitions at The Hole in New York, Ambach & Rice and Zevitas Marcus in Los Angeles, Paradise Row in London and Jeanroch Dard in Paris. Recent group exhibitions include Brand New Gallery in Milan, M+B in Los Angeles, the Torrance Art Museum in Torrance, TX and Galerie Ampersand in Cologne.
Text by the artist:
“Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it’s anyone’s guess who she will be.” – Barack Obama, April 30, 2016 – White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
On April 30, 2016, President Barack Obama delivered a speech to a packed house at the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner, a self-congratulatory, celebrity-laden, black tie, red carpet affair, hosted by the press themselves. As is now customary, a sitting U.S. president must tap both Washington speech writers and Hollywood comedians to craft a speech that’s equal parts serious policy discussion, slurping the press’s ass, and most importantly, mildly acidic comedic roast—the latter being the only reason anyone bothers to actually tune in. In a moment now scented by pungent schadenfreude, mere moments after grilling then-GOP-Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, Obama infamously raised a mic in his left hand, kissed the index and middle finger of his right hand, cocksurely pronounced, “Obama out!” and like a true hip hop MC, coolly released his grip and dropped the mic to the stage floor with a sonic thud. Cue thunderous applause…
Nearly all press headlines (and twitter feeds) from the evening immediately lit up:
“Obama Roasts Trump, Drops Mic.”
Knowing what we now know about Trump, it seems obvious that these headlines would have deeply disturbed candidate Trump and further emboldened his fateful run for the White House. Exactly one year later, in an unprecedented move, President Trump would avoid the Correspondent’s Dinner altogether, instead holding a campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania as if to directly compete with the Nielsen ratings and celebrity sightings the annual press event typically enjoys—a mere microcosm of the vindictive and competitive spirit that comprises Trump’s personal and political outlook.
The choice to further immortalize this light-hearted ‘mic drop’ gesture is that I believe it will be forever imbued with and contextualized by the contentiousness and shocking outcome of the election that followed. For blue-blooded Democrats and progressives, the self-assured ‘mic drop’ turned out to be the ultimate rug pull—the sonic thud of the mic hitting the stage floor, replaced by the wet, cacophonous thwack of our liberal college-educated brains split wide open by the concrete reality of a new Trump-merica. A cosmic disconnect so seismic, it’s akin to being bathed in a warm ray of majestic sunlight picnicking in a serene meadow only to realize it’s actually a flaming, lava-spewing meteor hurtling straight toward your vegan picnic basket.
For a majority of white, middle-class Americans and right wing Republicans, alongside Hillary Clinton’s ultimate defeat in the face of lopsided, inaccurate polling, the ‘mic drop’ gesture was the closest thing to a modern day “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline—an in-your-face last laugh, festering war wound on the ass cheek of every out-of-touch elite who refused to see the Trump train coming. This brief, tongue-in-cheek, meme-culture moment captures perhaps one of the last, and now possibly most cringe-inducing displays of liberal cocksureness and blinding naiveté. After all, we were living in such an innocent time that liberal’s most vociferous battles were over just how progressive Hillary Clinton’s agenda would be when she does in fact become President, rather than how Donald Trump would ride an enormous ‘white lash’ directly into the most important office in the known universe.
Indeed, there is a glorious comedic tension when a serious man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, can loosen his tie—and his tongue—for a single night, but, when Obama dropped the mic and uttered the phrase: “Obama out!,” no one in the audience, let alone the nation, the world, and possibly even Donald Trump himself, believed it meant his legacy, as well.
The Long Goodbye… makes reference to Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel, once described as “a study of a moral and decent man cast adrift in a selfish, self-obsessed society where lives can be thrown away without a backward glance and any notions of friendship and loyalty are meaningless.”
It also refers the palpable sense that the Obama phenomenon–a romanticized and intellectually stimulating eight-year blip in time that perhaps some card-carrying progressives took for granted, is now needing to be properly eulogized and held up as an example of a political and moral ideal many will be clawing and clambering to rapidly return to. How long will it sting? How much will it haunt us? How long until sanity returns? How much of a mess will we be left with? Can we, in fact, stop the bleeding? Is there a tourniquet big enough? How long will this long goodbye ultimately last?
Viewers entering the dimly lit Main Gallery will encounter 44 velvety-surfaced drawings on pastel-blackened sandpaper, installed edge-to-edge around the 3-wall expanse of the space—as if to suggest an oversized film strip or life-size zoetrope. At the center of each individual sheet is a hand-drawn pastel rendering depicting a single frame of Obama’s ‘mic drop’ moment, appropriated directly from the live White House feed of the 2016 Correspondent’s Dinner. Together, the 44 drawings (each measuring 3.5 ft. square), are in fact frames, forming an expansive rotoscope-animated sequence. At the very center of the space, a square-shaped monitor plays an endless loop of the 44 hand-drawn frames, its blueish glow subtly reflecting on the polished concrete floor below.