Monday, May 28, 2012

Wayne White at Marty Walker Gallery

So Long Losers! Hey Guys I'm Back!, 2008, acrylic on offset lithograph, 24 x 52 inches. Copyright Wayne White. Courtesy Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, TX.

A repost of my article at

Across the South, the bold letters of “See Ruby Falls,” are painted on barns surrounded by serene landscapes. I can’t help but think Tennessee native Wayne White was somehow influenced by these ancient signs when he started his word art paintings. Even if not directly, I would argue these iconic ads layered over the landscape seeped into his subconscious, because the moment I discovered he was from the South, those immortal words popped in my head. Raised in a state just north of him, I remember seeing a few in my travels. I think even Johnny Cash wrote a song that plays on the words.

Wayne White’s thrift store prints he buys with fancy frames are just the beginning of his relevant approach to painting. His painted words are often crass or jolting with incredibly humorous content. The work in this show is moving further into storytelling, rather than a quick witted phrasing. Once again, I see the Southern influence of drawing out stories to “paint” a fuller picture. Where as, I see the quick wit paintings influenced by him working in TV one liner and sound bite culture. Personally, I am interested to see where White might take this more
narrative form.

When I dropped by to see the show, it was a few hours before opening night. They were taking pictures of the installation painting, so I didn’t fully appreciate the work until I turned around as I was leaving and the image nearly hit me in the face with the words jetting out like movie credits. The background was mostly sky with a rural landscape and I am pretty sure I saw a barn in the corner. The words are something you have to read for yourself, but the 3D text is very attractive and has a sign painted graphic look.

One thing I think is new about White is that he, like a few other artists, is tackling humor head on. Historically, Modernism took on society norms through subversion and many Post-Moderns artists made in roads through irony, but theirs were often cruel ridicule rather than direct handling of humor. I think the cracks in High Art began with second generation Pop artists who were many times creating just fun images. But the important task of using humor as a meaning and means of creating art images wasn’t really breached until recently. White might be a vanguard to something new. The visual artists are coming late to an idea playwrights have known for millennia, comedy has enduring power. Wayne White’s show at Marty Walker Gallery will be up until May 5th. And I didn’t even
mention that he is the subject of a documentary titled “Beauty is Embarrassing”, where I learned about his early work in TV on Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I am sure Marty Walker Gallery still has on hand large catalogs of his work.

For more images visit

No comments: