Rather than drawing a line to separate his personal and commercial work, LA-based artist Wayne White (featured in HF Vol. 19) brings the two full circle with his latest exhibition, “Invisible Ruler,” at NYC’s Joshua Liner Gallery. White has extensive credits as a set designer, puppeteer and director (he won multiple Emmys for his work on Pee-wee’s Playhouse), and his puppetry informs his oeuvre in both two and three-dimensional media. The title of the exhibition, according to the artist, alludes to the ways previous creative pursuits impact artists for the rest of their careers. Techniques learned in one medium come through in others in unexpected ways.
For the exhibition, White created an installation with two towering sculptures of rockabilly guitar players. The pieces appear highly polished. They’re presented in their own section of the gallery painted to complement their color schemes. It’s surprising to learn that White created the works with low (or no) budget materials like cardboard and spray paint. Each multi-layered contour of the characters’ faces and outfits was cut by hand.
The 2D works in the show get sardonic and sassy. White appropriates vintage landscapes — the sort of museum knock-offs you’d find in a thrift store — and interrupts these sublime scenes with bold, colorful block letters. One can imagine him smirking while painting “I Wanna See the Manager” and “Overconfident Men on Horseback” over the pristine views. Alluding to his sculpture and puppeteering work, letters take on weighty forms and dominate the space like objects.
The exhibition also includes several watercolor paintings and studies. Frenetic and abstract, these works break down forms into their basic geometric elements in a way that evokes the cardboard pieces in the show. Culling these exaggerated features from the human form is what lends White’s caricature-esque sculptural work its poignancy. Shown together, the disparate works in “Invisible Ruler” gain a sense of continuity as they shed light on an accomplished artist’s creative evolution.
Wayne White’s “Invisible Ruler” is on view through October 11 at Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC.