Often when you walk into an art show you are strongly encouraged to be silent and to consider the art that you are looking at very carefully and very seriously. The resulting feeling is generally somber and humorless. You have to be ready to be fascinated by even the most minimal work and committed to the perception that it is unbelievably insightful (even if you really do not understand what it is that you are looking at). The art world often views fun or entertaining art as not “serious” art. It is not supposed to be charming or amusing or, contrary to popular trends, interactive. Therefore, when you finally experience work that encompasses all those assets, it’s like a breath of fresh air. This exhilarating feeling is exactly what occurs when you come in contact with Wayne White’s work.
In his most recent show, Invisible Ruler, White reflects on his diverse creative career and expands on some of his visionary obsessions. The show is divided into three different sections. As you enter the gallery you are surrounded by White’s fascination with the convergence of words and images in his “Words Paintings.” Using vintage fantastical pastoral landscape lithographs tinted with muted colors, White meticulously integrates brightly colored three-dimensional text into each piece as if the words were actually there, often including their appropriate reflections and shadows. Choosing his words carefully, and often humorously, the once dull landscapes are transformed into surreal and strange images that take on a new life of their own.
The second grouping of work demonstrates a direct correlation into the mind of White reflected into a series of drawings. The drawings range in theme and artistic style but display paths, which White has taken to investigate and come to conclusions within his own work. These drawings also lead the way to the pièce de résistance, White’s shining gem in his show: two enormous hand-cut kinetic cardboard sculptures.
The larger-than-life puppets expose the side of White that he is best known for and allows his journey to come full circle. The artist has won three Emmys for his work on the TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, in which he created many infamous puppets. Inspired by the Louvin Brothers, an American country music duo who popularized close harmony, White constructed the puppets in less than two weeks. Do not let this speedy timeline fool you. Though these creatures are easily identifiable in White’s artistic style and are wonderfully amusing, in the gallery they take on a new life outside of White’s imagination. They allow the viewer to enjoy a childlike wonderment thought long disappeared.
What is apparent in Wayne White’s work isa mission to bring real world humor into the art world. White is the type of artist that would be making art whether people noticed or not. Following his heart and his pleasure (something he encourages everyone to do), he challenges our senses while asking, “Can’t art also make you laugh?” Personally speaking, this jaded New Yorker can admit that laughing out loud and relishing in the delight created by this show may not be such a bad thing for the art world.
“Invisible Ruler” September 11 – October 11, 2014
Joshua Liner Gallery 540 W 28th St, New York, NY 10001
(212)244-7415 Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am until 6 pm