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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 Pe�a 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 V��,” 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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