Eric White’s work embodies the intersection of romanticized American dreams and the psychological paranoia that surrounds such fantasy. White’s paintings reference twentieth century film, music and pop culture backed by painterly adroitness to subvert and recode the dominant narratives of contemporary society. His hyper-intensive figurative paintings exist between American Realism and Surrealism and are evocative of fleeting lucid dreams.
The paintings in Triage are set in 1973 America and follow
a female protagonist whose identity is never fully revealed.
In each painting she is fixated on governing her own reality through a self-made religious ritual involving the creation
of shrine-like arrangements. Three large-scale paintings
each present the same scene depicted from different cinematographic angles. The perspective of a Brutalist office building shifts and cars are parked in divergent configurations on an otherwise mostly empty parking lot which evokes the existential crisis of contemporary American society. We see the main protagonist carrying out strange and surreal rituals: in an attempt to restore balance and order to her personal life and in society at large, she obsessively arranges trinkets and cultural ephemera into secret displays.
White’s exploration of nostalgia is transferred through his painterly command in calculated, controlled scenes that seemingly freeze time. In an overarching sense, Triage visually parses the line between rational and irrational human behavior; the woman’s compulsion to respond to what she perceives as impending doom is understandable, but the way that the compulsion manifests (with a sort of “demented logic,” as White describes it) is puzzling to the viewer. White further describes Triage’s central narrative:
Eric White | East [1973 Plymouth Fury] (detail) | 2018 | Oil on canvas | 84 x 144 in
“In a way, this is a one-woman pagan uprising. It’s part- spiritual-epiphany, part-mental-breakdown. Her self-
styled shamanism incorporates culture of the time but is also influenced by various tenets of historical ritualistic traditions. Some aspects of elements in the parking lot are a manifestation of her own imagination and dissociative perception. For instance, the colors of the cars allude to the ‘sacred directions’ of paganism. She finds her actions to be beneficial to society at large, and, in a truly well-intentioned way, considers herself to be a healer in some way.”
Also presented is a body of work that is a satirical tribute to music and its lost forms, specifically the LP and 8-track tape. The paintings are the size of actual record albums, though two sculptural paintings in the exhibition realize this form at five times the original scale. White deciphers both original content as well as the meaning of these images and forces us to interpret them again.
Desirable artifacts in their own right, the album covers resonate beyond their referential frameworks, and bring attention to the way culture is packaged and represented.
As writer Mike Newton states in his essay about the LP paintings, “These are exercises in both loving fidelity to their widely-revered sources, and cheeky impertinence in the face of fading cultural legacies.” In addition, an installation of about 400 8-track tapes, all featuring central female figures, is shaped into a massive pyramid symbolizing the power of music and memorializing a forgotten past.