Wayne White’s art isn’t highbrow. It isn’t Low Brow. But it qualifies as both. It’s also all-American in the best of ways: Pure, funny, shoot-from-the-hip, self-made, inventive, imaginative. Wayne White is Will Rogers or Mark Twain with a paintbrush and a hot glue gun, an artist whose mural work greeted attendees at the 2009 Art Basel in Miami, with paintings in museums across the United States and hanging on the wall at a local coffee shop, walking distance from his house. Musician and painter Mark Mothersbaugh calls White:
One of the founding fathers of American Pop Art
And he exploded from that most American of mediums, the television, influencing generations of artists.
White won three Emmys for his art direction on the “children’s program,” PeeWee’s Playhouse, along with collecting Billboard and MTV Music Video Awards as an art director for seminal music videos including The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and Peter Gabriel’s ‘Big Time.’ He’s subject of an acclaimed documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing (the film’s title is taken from a piece he did for Art Basel), and performed a live show You’re Supposed to Act All Impressed in New York and Los Angeles during which he discussed his life and his art, played banjo, danced the soft shoe, and showed slides (a portion of You’re Supposed to… is seen in Beauty is Embarrassing).
A retrospective of White’s work from 2000 to 2009, featuring over 30 works, some from private collections, and other pieces for sale, makes up “Master Retrospective,” currently on display at Western Projects. The exhibition focuses on White’s “word paintings,” re-purposed thrift shop art to which White adds sayings, some drawn from his growing up in Tennessee, others from his experiences in New York and Los Angeles. The words–over-sized, three-dimensional text painstakingly integrated into vintage landscape reproductions–are stretched, curved, or condensed, and all additions to the thrift shop paintings are done by hand; there’s is no computer generation or projection used, just a ruler, pencil and brush guided by White’s hand and imagination. Along with word paintings, Western Projects has several of White’s sculptures on display, including a “bouquet” of words made from what appears to be cardboard, but is actually cast in metal.
White’s work, his use of text for both its shape and meaning on the landscapes he has chosen is irreverent, joyful, elegant, at times painful and revealing. His absence was felt in Letters From LA: Text in Southern California Art, and his presence resonates with exuberance at Western Project. White’s paintings are in the collections of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Detroit Art Museum, Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation in Los Angeles, Laguna Art Museum, among others; “Master Retrospective 2000-2009” runs through March 30 at Western Projects. And when the urge for pancakes and art hits at 3am, you can always see some of his paintings hanging at Fred 62.
“Master Retrospective 2000-2009”
2762 S La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Open Tuesday–Saturday 11:00am to 5:00pm