I TOOK THE MACHINE APART BUT COULD NOT PUT IT BACK TOGETHER will be composed of five main components: his signature “word paintings” on vintage offset lithographs, as well as text-based works on paper over the Artist’s painted abstract backgrounds, mixed-media marionettes, and an installation of drawings. The fifth element encompasses the entire gallery, which is painted over with White’s personal doodles, words, and phrases, pulled directly from his notebook. Opening on February 8, from 6-8pm, the artist will be in attendance.
Each element of this exhibition serves as an equal part of White’s process. Each component leads into the next, building towards one ongoing visual narrative. The most prevalent works we see in the show will be a new series of “word paintings” – the latest iteration of a series of works he began producing 18 years ago. It is in the texts of these works that we begin to identify the unifying theme of the show; one of vulnerability and reflection. Moving away from White’s usual sardonic criticism, the Artist allows us a rare look into the role he occasionally identifies with: the frustrated writer. White continues to seek out the right words for his practice; those phrases which are both meaningful and relevant.
These new texts highlight “taking things apart” and “reflection,” – phrases that point to questioning one’s own thoughts and ideas, painting an image of the vulnerable and introspective artist. The title work of the show I TOOK THE MACHINE APART BUT COULD NOT PUT IT BACK TOGETHER emphasizes the idea of the creator, one who begins to disassemble in confidence, only to fail in its re-assemblage. Perhaps the creator has taken on too much. This latest exhibition theme exists in stark contrast to what we’ve seen from his previous bodies of work. His last show from 2016 (I’M HAVING A DIALOGUE WITH THE UNIVERSE AND YOU’RE JUST SITTING THERE), highlighted the inflated artist’s ego- attacking the idea of self produced importance and fame. Here, we see a more accessible and exposed Wayne White.
As if pulling back the curtain, the artist has chosen to exhibit a wall of sketches and works on paper—some serving as ideas for future projects, while others exist as pure thought. This collection, left unframed and open, adds to the honesty of the entire exhibition. Taken directly from his recent 30-year retrospective at the Hunter Museum of American Art (Chattanooga, TN), here we see the artist’s hand in direct opposition against the pristine and perfect text paintings. These seemingly random sketches and paper pieces, pinned to the wall, are not there to serve as relics, but rather to help us understand that these thoughts are always current—reflective of his own mind and current studio. These are the thoughts that push his creativity forward.
The walls of the gallery will be painted, reflecting White’s text and imagery – all pulled directly from his personal notebook. Not only is White opening his private sketchbook for us, but he is broadcasting and enlarging it for us to see, leaving us with the roots and substance to help inform the artist’s entire practice.
The puppet sculptures included in the show are another facet of White’s past and future. Equally important for the artist, four of his marionettes will be on view. Party Girl stands tall in her red heels, while Grievously Wounded Union Soldier once acted as maquette for a larger piece, now serves as a reminder of White’s commitment and respect of history.
This is not a show about Wayne White’s past, it is about process and coexistence of the past, present and future. For this, we are offered a view into the creative machine that White has taken apart. As viewers, we are fortunate enough to see the inside, before the parts are plundered, or (possibly) put back together.
Born in 1957 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Wayne White currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Many are familiar with White’s work from the iconic 1980s television show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” earning the artist three Emmy Awards for production design. White is also noted for his work on music videos, such as, Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.” More recently, his extensive career was chronicled in the 2012 feature-length documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing, directed by Neil Berkeley. In 2013, following the success of the documentary, White presented You’re Supposed to Act All Impressed, a TED Talk on his work and career as a fine artist. The artist’s work is included in numerous public institutions and esteemed collections, such as: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY; The Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit, MI; Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; The Progressive Art Collection, Mayfield Village, OH; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA.
Selected solo exhibitions include Monitorium, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA (2017-2018); Thrill after Thrill (30 year retrospective), Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN (2017); I’m Having A Dialogue with the Universe, and You’re Just Sitting There, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY (2016); Art is Supposed to Hypnotize You or Something, Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, FL (2015); Invisible Ruler, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY (2014); FOE, York College, York, PA (2014); I Took Off Work And Came All The Way Down Here: The Art of Wayne White, artspace, Shreveport, LA (2014); Wayne White: Masterworks 2000–2009, Western Project, Los Angeles, CA (2013); HALO AMOK, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK (2013); Spark in the Void, Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago, IL (2012); BIG LICK BOOM, Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, VA (2012); I Say A Lot Of Things, Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, TX (2012); Big Lectric Fan to Keep Me Cool While I Sleep, Rice University, Houston, TX (2009); I’m Lost in a Spaceship Mamma, Clementine Gallery, New York, NY (2006).