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Art review: Eric Yahnker at Ambach & Rice

Eric Yahnker demonstrates a wayward knack for juxtaposing found images and objects from modern mass culture.

Merge Leonardo DiCaprio on the prow of the Titanic with an open-armed Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea as Moses, and the refined colored-pencil and pastel drawing shows an ambiguous, even romantic celebrity coupling between “Kings of the World.” Put an open-mouthed, fist-shaking album-cover photograph of crooning Stevie Wonder next to a similarly posed Hillary Clinton giving sober, televised Congressional testimony, and “Ebony and Benghazi” reverberates.

At Ambach & Rice, where 19 recent drawings and mixed-media sculptures are on view, Yahnker doesn't court a controlled response for his promiscuous fusions. Instead, what these and other of his casual collisions conjure is a carefully selected set of pairings that careen out of conceptual control.

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That's a good thing, since pop culture intends to manipulate. By contrast, Yahnker pulls out the rug.

That certainly happens with a shelf of old record album anthologies whose labels extol the music of erotic moods, feelings, emotions and moments. They lead to a Trayvon Martin still life of Skittles and canned ice tea.

Christopher Reeve sporting voluptuous breasts beneath his skin-tight Superman costume and Lynda Carter with five o'clock shadow and a hairy chest despite her Wonder Woman guise flip conventional associations of sexuality and power on their heads. In a pointed revision of Norman Rockwell's comforting painting “Freedom from Fear,” replacing innocent young children with a tattooed teenage vixen being tucked into bed by Mom and Dad sends a disturbing shudder.

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The show's smallest drawing is among its most memorable works: A mammoth head of Bill Clinton floats on the ocean's sunrise-splashed horizon, an endearing grin across his famous face. The sometimes vaguely obscene charge that runs throughout Yahnker's work heralds the perverse dawn of another strange day.

Ambach & Rice, 6148 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 965-5500, through Oct. 12. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.ambachandrice.com

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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