Los Angeles MOCA
Pae White has shown widely in California and has been included in New York group shows at both Friedrich Petzel and the now-closed Roger Merians Gallery. The traveling exhibition "Plane Structures", curated by David Pagel, which stopped at White Columns a couple years back, included an outstanding and memorable sculpture by White. This piece, which came from a larger series titled "The Inconsolable Wailing of the Damned," was an acid yellow Plexiglas plinth capable of projecting its own unholy aurora, where its reflected color can appear swollen and bulbous because of the sculpture's irregular casting and interior spills of lemony solvent.
White is well known for her design work, which includes the biomorphically star-shaped Corian case for Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies, essentially a deck of cards with propositions like "Hire unqualified people" and solicitations to "Make it more sensual." (This collaborative work was widely disseminated in 1995 as the Christmas gift of L.A. collectors Peter and Eileen Norton.) White also appropriates freely from other makers, including some Arne Jacobsen chairs in her recent rooftop installation, "A Few Vera © Retrospective," at the Los Angeles MOCA. Clearly she is an artist capable of working with a variety of mediums and materials.
"Animal Flood" is the title of Pae White's first solo show in New York. Leaning against one wall of the gallery's large, industrial space gallery were seven four-foot-square panels mounted with photographic images. The works are titled not with words but with animal symbols: black graphic silhouettes of a squirrel, for instance, or an alligator or a monkey.
All the Ilfachrome images, digitally downloaded from the Internet, are pixelated and highly enigmatic, none easily deciphered. One picture (titled with a bird icon) shows a man's face, blue and submerged, surrounded by a halo of tiny rising bubbles. This single image has obvious similarities to the video work of Bill Viola. But it could be a film still showing William Hurt in isolation-tank ecstasy in the Ken Russell film Altered States.
Another image, which is accompanied by three aluminum disks placed on the floor in front of the photograph, seems to be a projection of a sleeping, smiling female face onto an orbital view of the Martian wasteland. Or at least I think it's Mars, since it seems to include that famous Martian Sphinx Face that's forever on the cover of the tabloid Weekly World News. Another image I would identify as one of those phony Sea World pearl divers, where a tethered lady dives for pre-seeded oysters in a fake Japanese Village designed for tourists carrying Kodak and cash. Perhaps that's a tourist reflected in the tank's double-thick window.
It's all very intriguing. For me, the frieze-like installation is similar in form and feeling to Chris Marker's films -- Sans Soleil orSilent Movie -- in which images are uprooted and a free-form narrative dissolves and interrupts their poetic conjunction.
The show also includes a few Plexiglas "entablatures," clear and heavy floor pieces that are equally encrypted, and that breathlessly reinforce some same rigid animal-form stance. The works withhold their meaning, while they hold their practiced pose, amid the flood, and awash in image, but secure under their own material weight.
Pae White, "Animal Flood," Apr. 12-May 11, 1997, at I-20, 529 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011
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