Contributed by Sharon Butler / TEENAGE DONNA, Seattle artist Robert Yoder’s latest solo at Frosch & Portmann, opens on Thursday. His new paintings, more dense than previous drawings and paper collages, are rendered on solitary, well-worn canvases, and the press release reads like a page torn from a teenager’s long lost diary:
It’s 1979 and we’re all getting stoned in Donna’s house. Her parents are out of town and think she’s spending the weekend with a friend. I haven’t known Donna for long but we did attempt to date for a while and let it linger for another month or two. It didn’t end so much as it just faded out. Right now I’m dating Jamie, her best friend. Jamie has hippie artists for parents and they officially named her James, which she finds embarrassing. When she meets a new person, someone eventually blurts it out and once again we see her learner’s permit for proof. Jamie and I are sitting on the floor with our backs to the sofa and our feet under the coffee table. My best friend Rodney is with us, he’s rolling another joint. I don’t know what he does to do it, but his fingernails are always bleeding or torn up and watching him is gross and exciting. We went to Myrtle Beach once and ended up wrestling on the bed. I think he got a hard-on too but we didn’t do anything
Donna keeps playing Off The Wall, she just got it and thinks it’s the best. She has that round moon-face that makes it easy for her to put on too much makeup. Her hair is yellow and parted in the middle and she uses rollers each night to get her bangs to flip out like they do. All of us are ridiculously preppy with our topsiders and colorful Dickies and Jamie has that plaid skirt with the giant safety pin closure. Donna steals it though with her Ladies White Izod Polo, always fresh. The only thing I can think that makes her unique is that she chain smokes Eve cigarettes, menthol of course. On weekends and a few nights she works at K-Mart. For now, it’s still a respectable store but it’s no Belk-Leggetts or Rhode’s. Her paycheck goes towards clothes and pot and cigarettes. We know older guys that we get drunk with every now and then but we don’t give them money for it. We’re kids, we don’t understand the rules yet.
Physically, the paintings feature lumpy shapes, frayed edges, and crusty paint. The hidden text, intimate scale, and barely discernible forms seem to embody the fraught secrecy of adolescence and the glorious (if maddening) imperfection of memory.
NOTE: Readers may recall that Yoder has a gallery called SEASON in Seattle where I had a show a couple years ago. A huge fan of his work (and his sensibility), I’m looking forward to NADA New York (May 9-11), where SEASON will be featuring a dozen of my paintings as well as ceramics by Elisabeth Kley.
[Image at top: Robert Yoder, TEENAGE DONNA (SAPPHIRES), 2013, oil on canvas. 10 x 9 inches.]
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