A Celebration of City-Living: Wendy White at Leo Koenig Inc.
Wendy White's (NAP #22, #28) Fotobild series, the subject of her third solo exhibition at Leo Koenig Inc., enhances the medium-blurring cool developed since her 2008 debut at this gallery. Angled structures and gestural graffiti recur, paired with silkscreened awnings stretched over metal armatures. What emerges is a deeply contemplative grouping, tied intrinsically to the urban landscape. — Brian Fee, Austin contributor
Wendy White | Pix Vää. 2012, Acrylic on canvas, steel frame, rope, inkjet print on vinyl, PVC. 89 x 132 x 4 inches. Image courtesy Leo Koenig Inc., New York.
To the left of the entryway hangs Pix Vää, incorporating a polished iteration of White's shaped-PVC vocabulary from her 2010 exhibition Up w/Briquette. This perfectly abuts an expanse of whitish canvas, the top third seemingly stained by automobile exhaust. This haze carries to the silkscreened awning itself, half the work's height and slightly longer overall, floating above and throwing shadows onto the PVC/canvas base. The silkscreen itself retains its own shadow effect, in a scribbly cloud dissolving into a pale green base, truncated at the bottom where the awning folds into its metal frame, bordering the canvas' “car exhaust” effect. This isn't the only instance of White masking her own hand versus digital source material.
Wendy White | El Rocko Lounge, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, digital print on vinyl over metal frame. 103 x 139 x 4 inches. Image courtesy Leo Koenig Inc., New York.
El Rocko Lounge, across the gallery from Pix Vää, highlights White's foray of incorporating photography into her work via a camera-phone snapshot taken perhaps in the venue's parking lot. The washed-out imagery, like a Hipstamatic snap with really wonky settings, dissolves vertically as pastel tones bleed out the public phone booth, palm trees, and corrugated façade into nothingness. A secondary image (perhaps the lounge from a receded angle) pitches into the main photograph, cutting off the top third of the frame; plus, the main image is reversed, as if viewed through a rearview mirror. Foggy cutout letters in El Rocko Lounge's canvas base tilt to the right, half-obscured with blue gestural sprays inspiring motion, perhaps activity around the lounge. The brushy letters “MLK” relate directly to the physical location — El Rocko Lounge is on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Savannah — and to the civil rights leader's prominent work in the American South.
The individual components in El Rocko Lounge are integral to the whole: though the canvas base is dwarfed by its vinyl awning, it supports the unit while hovering just off the gallery floor. Likewise, its layered imagery, text, and color choices enhance the total configuration. Pix Vää's real/illusionary shadow effect reemphasizes this strength. SPBK puts an interesting spin on White's compositional practice, floating a silkscreened awning in front of a human-sized expanse of raw, practically featureless canvas. This effectively foregrounds the image, nondescript marble (or granite?) architecture graffiti'ed with contrasting spray-paint orbs and hard-edged lettering. Though the press release states SPBK's ties to Detroit, its clinical subject matter broadens its origin, say, to any city with government buildings. I saw West Shinjuku, Tokyo's manicured metropolitan blocks within SPBK, their slick surfaces practically demanding a tag.
Wendy White | SPBK, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, steel frame, rope, inkjet print on vinyl. 96 x 108 x 4 inches. Image courtesy Leo Koenig Inc., New York.
In an interview with Curb and Stoops contributor Arthur Peña ahead of this exhibition, White stated: “I think of the Fotobilds as the logical next step toward a hybrid experience: painting and sculpture smashed together with buildings and streets, how it feels walking around a massive city, urban ghosts, forgotten architecture, new signs.” Coming from a former New Yorker who only feels comfortable in big cities, I sense the universal grab of White's genre-defying works. They celebrate the urban sprawl's quiet elegance and capture the aggregate history embedded in much-used, much-treaded spaces.
Wendy White | 11 Oliver, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, PVC and vinyl over metal frame. 73 x 120 x 4 inches. Image courtesy Leo Koenig Inc., New York
Wendy White was born in Deep River, CT. She earned a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Rutgers University. White has had solo and group exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, and her work was recently featured in Phaidon’s anthology Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting (2011). In 2013, White will have a solo exhibition at Maruani & Noirhomme, Brussels and a two-person exhibition at Anonymous Gallery in Mexico City. White is the recipient of a 2012 Painting Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She currently lives and works in New York City. Pix Vää is her third solo exhibition with Leo Koenig Inc., and continues through October 20.
Brian Fee is an art punk currently based in Austin, TX. His culture blog Fee's List covers his three loves (art, film, live music) occurring in his other three loves (the Lone Star State, the Big Apple, and Tokyo).