10 SEPTEMBER - 13 DECEMBER 2009
BIG LECTRIC FAN TO KEEP ME COOL WHILE I SLEEP is a line from legendary country singer George Jones’ song, “Ragged But Right,” which was stuck in Wayne White’s head when he visited Houston in the sweltering month of June. Says White, “I kept thinking of hot Houston nights before air conditioning and the young George Jones in this city - full of crazy artistic passion and making music history.” To honor Jones, White will create at Rice Gallery a twenty-two-foot puppet head resembling a young, flat-topped Jones, circa 1950. The massive head will sit sleeping on its side, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling, billboard-style lettering. “It’s a roadside attraction, a museum relic of a lost world, and a big, weird toy still in its box,” explains White.
Over the course of a prolific career in Hollywood and the art world, Wayne White has done it all, from set design and puppetry, to cartooning and illustration, to oil paintings and bronze sculptures. Best known as the three-time Emmy winning creator of many of the puppets in the hit, late-1980s television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, White has done production design and art direction for numerous television shows, advertisements, and music videos, including Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.” Most recently, White is known for meticulously painting irreverent and humorous phrases on top of found, thrift-store lithographs depicting romantic, 19th century renditions of pastoral landscapes and seascapes. Dubbed by one journalist “the weirdest landscape painter in America,” White uses master painting techniques to create the illusion of words and phrases surreally disappearing into the horizon or jutting out from each lithograph’s placid settings. Also a sculptor, White has created three-dimensional versions of his dynamic text and large structures with peepholes that viewers can peak into to see miniature, diorama-like worlds created by White. At Rice Gallery, White will bring his work in painting, sculpture, and puppetry together to create his first site-specific installation.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Wayne White was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1957. He received a BFA from Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he staged his first puppet show instead of writing a paper for his art history class. After college, White left Tennessee for New York to concentrate on a career in illustration and cartooning, working many odd jobs, including as a sign painter and as an assistant to artists Art Spiegelman and Red Grooms. In 1985, he built the sets and puppets and performed many of the characters for the Nashville children’s public television show Mrs. Cabobble’s Caboose. One year later he worked on the first season of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, designing and building Randy, Cool Cat, Dirty Dog, Chicky Baby, Roger the monster, Mr. Kite, and Cowntess the cow, and voicing/performing several of these characters.
Over the past eight years, White has worked primarily as a fine artist with solo-exhibitions of his paintings and sculptures in galleries in New York and Los Angeles. In 2006, he created the large-scale sculpture Yer Supposed to Act All Impressed for the plaza of Rockefeller Center as part of the group exhibition Art Rock 2006. A book about his work, Wayne White: Maybe Now I’ll Get the Respect I So Richly Deserve, designed and edited byTodd Oldham, was recently published by AMMO Books, Los Angeles, California. Wayne White lives and works in Los Angeles.
Wayne White is represented in Culver City, California by
Western Project and in New York, New York by Mireille Mosler, Ltd.
Story by Jennifer Hitt,
WAMU’s Country Bluegrass
5 December 2009
Listing in “What’s Ahead,”
The Chronicle of Higher Education
27 November 2009
Article by Jim Ridley,
30 September 2009
Review by Bill Davenport,
29 September 2009
Interview with Meghan Hendley,
KUHF 88.7 FM
10 September 2009
Article by Jessica Stark,
2 September 2009
30 August 2009
Article by Andrew Dansby,
28 August 2009
Photos by Nash Baker © nashbaker.com