Wendy White’s exhibition Racetrack Playa, at Shulamit Nazarian, is a very American show. Her collages of old car ads ,and their often blatant sexism, combined with the use of denim as a sculptural medium, play with the iconography of America’s past to force us to think about America today. How do you reconcile a love of the open road and exploring natural landscapes with the environmental destruction caused by using cars fueled with oil to get there? How much of the past perception of women as objects still informs thinking today? Will America get out of its wood paneled basement to move into a better place- or will its longing for the past continue to slow its progress?
From the press release-
Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to announce representation of New York-based artist Wendy White. The artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Racetrack Playa, will feature new paintings, sculptures, pigment prints, and a site-specific installation.
The exhibition takes its name from a three-mile dry lakebed in Death Valley National Park where sliding rocks or “sailing stones” have inscribed mysterious linear imprints on the landscape. Using this scarred landscape as a metaphor for our current times, the works in Racetrack Playa explore power, entitlement, and imperialism via the aesthetics and evolution of American car culture.
In pieces that function as both homage and critique, White collapses signs of racing and car culture with references to 20th-century American painting. Multiple-canvas works such as Posi Track and Burnout (both 2019) take cues from James Rosenquist’s famous Vietnam War-era painting F-111 (1964–65). In White’s versions, images of mangled engines, worn tire treads, and damaged landscapes suggest a trampling of both philosophical ideals and the natural environment. In addition, the works make reference to Andy Warhol’s Death and Disasters series and Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.
The exhibition also includes new works from the artist’s ongoing Jeans series. These pieces make use of worn denim, a quintessentially American fabric associated with labor and a sense of rugged individualism. Co-opting the material and its cultural connotations as a substrate for painting, White makes marks with dripped and splattered bleach before garnishing each piece with flat cut-out rainbows, beer bottles, and energy drinks.
A site-specific installation complete with wood paneled walls, carpet, and one of White’s signature denim sofas creates a quasi-automotive shop backdrop for a new suite of unique pigment prints. Carving directly into the paneling, White references the DIY aesthetic of the 70s muscle car era by way of hand-drawn symbols, slogans and logos.
Taken together, the works in Racetrack Playa riff on the visual cues of car culture, the resilient materiality of denim, and the sexiness of commercial graphics to examine a society long drawn to speed and dominance. Reexamining this typically male-dominated arena, White pushes back on advertising’s false promise that perhaps all of your desires are for the taking, if you just smoke the right cigarettes and drive the right car.
This exhibition closes 5/25/19.