September 17, 2012

Slick digital in Wendy White's new work


Checking out galleries this weekend, I was surprised to see that Wendy White, who has a solo at Leo Koenig this month, is incorporating digital images in her new work. Best known for large, handmade spray-painted constructions that combine stylized text and (sometimes) athletic equipment, White's new work features fabricated panels printed with digital images that she has manipulated in Photoshop. In a conversation with Arthur Peña at Curbs and Stoops, White said working with fabricated panels was difficult at first because making the supports by hand was an important part of her process.
With the Fotobilds, I knew that I wanted to integrate photography, and it made sense to use a real sign manufacturer since the subject matter is image and architecture. I took all the photos and manipulated them in Photoshop. They’re digitally printed but the frames themselves are welded and roped by hand, so the end result is still very personal, even if it is more of a collaboration.... [P]ainting as a singular discipline isn’t my thing. I think of the Fotobilds as the logical next step toward a hybrid experience: painting + sculpture smashed together with buildings and streets, how it feels walking around a massive city, urban ghosts, forgotten architecture, new signs. Basically there needed to be another surface, one that I couldn’t make with painting materials, something more rooted in the urban/universal...
There is something infinitely profound to me about walking down a street that millions walk every day, and have walked every day for hundreds of years, then opening a door (maybe a shitty graffiti covered door, maybe a new door with handprints on the glass, either way everything everywhere in NYC has marks on it) to go into a private residence, or a restaurant – something about street level started to seem utterly important to me. We physically interact with the city’s surfaces – exteriors of buildings, bridges – primarily on street level. Everything above is so clean and intact, but only because we can’t reach it to fuck it up.
But...the new work is undeniably clean and intact--handsome, even. The digitally ghosted images, glossy surfaces, and professionally-fabricated supports seem too slick to wrestle with the urban history and emotional resonance that White says inform the series. Perhaps working with expensive fabricated materials creates a fear factor--White's signature WTF attack strategy seems to have gone missing. Don't skip her less nostalgic, more abstract pieces installed in the back room.

"Wendy White | Pix Vää," Leo Koenig, Inc., Chelsea, New York, NY. Through October 20, 2012.

Image above: Wendy White, SPBK, 2012, acrylic on canvas, steel frame, rope, inkjet print on vinyl, 96 x 108 x 4 inches.

 Wendy White, installation view at Leo Koenig.

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