This exhibition will be White’s most ambitious project to date with the Gallery, featuring all aspects of the artist’s multidisciplinary practice: including kinetic sculptures, murals, work on paper, a wallpaper installation, and White’s signature word paintings on vintage offset lithographs. From puppeteer, to painter, illustrator, sculptor, wordsmith—and even typographic artist—the enormous breadth of White’s creative output is a fruitful product of a career spanning over 35 years. The artist will be present for an opening reception on Thursday, September 8, 2016.
For this body of work, White deconstructs themes surrounding vanity, hubris, and the inflated egos of artists, as he explains, “I’m drawn to the humor of vanity. The title of the show is an artist’s private, nasty thoughts about how he or she is superior to the public and is so worthy of praise and attention. It’s my way of popping bubbles and kicking pedestals.” Humor in particular is among the strongest touchstones of White’s work, explored throughout the entirety of his practice, and most discernibly in his word painting series –painted, often profane epithets, on vintage offset lithographs of kitschy landscapes. Cleverly wry phrases such as “THOSE GUYS ARE PUSSIES,” and “HAD IT GOIN ON BUT LOST IT THEN GOT IT BACK THEN FUCKED UP AND LOST IT,” interrupt the scenery, oftentimes integrated within the formal compositions of the offset prints.
White pays special attention to the structure of each letterform in the word paintings, creating dynamic optical interactions. In WE WERE IN AWE OF HIS WORK BUT HE WAS A GIANT ASSHOLE, the painted words protrude from a covered bridge, like pins in a pincushion, their perspectives shifting and turning around the framework. This arrangement of forms requires careful reading, as letters transform from clearly legible words into objects with vanishing points and buoyancy. In contrast to recent word paintings from White, these new works revisit an earlier style from the artist that evokes strong influences of Surrealism. Meanwhile, F.U. MONEY elicits Dadaist influences with its mixing of letterforms and unorthodox punctuation, superimposed on a Parisian scene at dusk. Adding to the Surrealist undertones, and echoing the walls of Peggy Guggenheim’s art collection, the installation of the works will extend from the gallery walls, held upright by oversized cardboard constructed hands. Other works engage with the artist’s nostalgia for his youth, and Southern heritage. In Covered Wagon, White paints a pre-industrial American carriage, spiraling into the center of a found lithograph, while a series of works on paper explore various commercial signage from mid-century America.
White’s extensive career as an artist, designer, and art director has long included collaborative projects extending as far back as his first professional ventures as a production designer in the 1980s. The artist’s most recent collaborative work—a wallpaper installation with Brooklyn-based Flavor Paper—will be installed in the Gallery. Entitled Waynetopia, the wallpaper design is adapted from a mural in the artist’s dining room at his home in Los Angeles. Inspired by 19th century French scenic wallpaper, the design features a fantastical landscape with tropical foliage, mountains, majestic skies, and White’s trademark painted words.
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 for Peter Gabriel's Big Time and The Smashing Pumpkins' Tonight ,Tonight, and 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 collections including 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, and the American Greetings Corporation Collection, Cleveland, OH.
Selected solo exhibitions include 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, traveling exhibition: Marketview Arts, York, PA; LSC Design, 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: A Puppet Installation by Wayne White, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, OK (2013); Spark in the Void at Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago, IL (2012); BIG LICK BOOM at Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, VA (2012); I Say A Lot Of Things at Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, TX (2012); Big Lectric Fan to Keep Me Cool While I Sleep at Rice University, Houston, TX (2009); I’m Lost in a Spaceship Mamma at Clementine Gallery, New York, NY (2006).