Wonderful retrospective of White’s work including a long interview with the man himself. I wasn’t totally crazy about some of the book design, but the work is so “fanfuckintastic” that it’s forgiven.
There’s a great part where he talks about his famous word paintings and how they began as a little happy accident:
…at the last minute I had a thrift store painting in the studio that I had got for the frame. I thought, “I just wanna use this landscape to just experiment.” A readymade, you know? So I just put the words in that readymade landscape and I thought it was kind of funny, and I set it aside and went back to a more elaborate painting. Friends would come by and see it and just flip out. That’s another lesson I learned: Sometimes you don’t always know what you’ve got. It really does need a little social chemistry to make it show itself to you sometimes. I then started to do more paintings on top of the thrift store paintings, which were readily available everywhere…
[It was] a big breakthrough for me. I started showing ‘em at a little restaurant here in my neighborhood called Fred 62 because I had no confidence at all about approaching galleries. Having been in Hollywood for so long, I considered myself a pariah as far as the art world we’re in. So I thought, “Maybe I’ll just test the waters at this coffee shop,” and they were nice enough to let me hang them up. Right away people started buyin’ them, and I couldn’t keep them on the walls… I gradually came to the attention of a gallery.
Emphasis mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this story in recent years from different people, but instead of a coffee shop, it was a blog. You start goofing around on something other than what you think is your main thing, think it’s kind of funny or interesting, don’t try to get it in front of the “gatekeepers” (publishers, gallery owners, etc.), but put it somewhere low-risk (online) where people could see it. People respond to it, you make more of the thing, push the idea further, and then, before you know it, you’ve attracted the attention of the very “gatekeepers” you were jumping over in the first place.
This story doesn’t happen unless you: a) goof around and experiment b) are stupid, gutsy, or naive enough to let people look at your experiments.
Filed under: Wayne White