What living and dating in Hollywood has done to Eric White’s Art.
I think that there’s something about living in Los Angeles, as I once have, that breaks people. It hollows them out, and fills them with images that are not their own. I used to believe that everyone in LA was crazy, because everyone else was famous, and it was impossible to be sane when you walked out of your front door only to see your neighbors face giant and 30 feet up in the sky, overlooking your matchbox houses, where everyone was slowly dying instead, the palm trees, all planted for the 1932 Olympics, swaying overhead.
In his latest show, “New Works” Serge Sorokko Gallery, you can see Eric struggle with the crazy of his adopted hometown of LA – with painting made from before and after moving to Lalaland. Originally from Ann Arbor, a utopian sort of small college town, aside from the artist declared bad weather, through RISD, a series of romantic misadventures in San Francisco, because if not for anything, what else is San Francisco good for, current tech bubble aside, and finally down, as in south, to his current home in LA, where after selling one of his early pieces to LA royalty, he’s now become a court artist of sorts, lover as well.
Now what, you might ask, does this have to do with the art on the wall? Well I’m trying to posit two things to explain why his art, so bad as it is, is so good, so please bear with me. First, that LA is Crazy, and two, that Eric White has become a court artist who both documents and questions the royalty that has overwhelmed all of his senses, not unlike the great Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar.
And I believe that his ‘New Works’ show stands as a testament to all that.
“New Works’ is nothing if not Hollywood nostalgia, though he admits that it is covered in his own paranoia about what it means, and what it is trying to say, and so his work, all meticulously, and beautiful painted, gently touches upon the dreams that movie land promises, only to know that just underneath those promises is something much more sinister, something much more dangerous – a belief that the world is something that it is not. A belief in truth and justice, and what might be called the American Way, none of which is actually real.
And so Mr. White paints half naked women, lounging in their excruciating sexuality, their faces blue with some poisoning, as the giant head of Marlon Brando, or the like, hovers behind them.
Or Mr. White shows us the beautiful American housewife, as captured by the director of photography, his lens cropped and focused on her nipples pushing through her white blouse.
There’s something desperate in the eyes of the woman behind the wheel of her giant car, the words ‘No Other Dream’ floating by in another picture, but on the same road as hers. Because, as someone who has lived in Los Angeles, whether there as an actor, or a writer, or a chef, or even as a celebrity character dancing for tips on Hollywood Blvd, there is no other dream, for years and years.
Even Donald Sutherland knows that the city is full of Body Snatchers, their invasion successful, though surprising to him, not communist in any way, but driven entirely by their lust of money and sex as an offering to their power. ‘Hey kid, it’s not a big deal, this is how the city works, sex is just like a handshake here, now bend over and let me introduce myself.’
Nowhere in Mr. White’s ‘New Works’ are things as they appear.
As he write:
“Because I promised”
“After what you did last night the sooner …”
In the final assessment, Hollywood idolatry is no different from the multi-faced, multi-eyed Ganesh, long-trunked, long-dicked, with a perfectly toned yoga body, baby Chairman in one hand, and plastic blue elephant toy in another. Whether it’s the latest tie-in toys, or the pro-USA propaganda of the recently released ‘The Martian’, Hollywood both master and slave to both.
In that way, Eric White’s work is brilliant, gorgeous, and technically stunning, as it both revels and reveals in the City of Lights that currently has its sweet pale fingers wrapped around his arm, from one red carpet to another, as one of the lucky, one of the favored, as he says himself, there is ‘No Other Dream’.
And having rejected this idea myself, through struggling daily to keep it at bay, in a world saturated with winners taking all, I hate what his work has to say, and I hate that he’s spending his time looking into this. In a perfect world, Eric White would be painting his amazing paintings about something else, and not about Los Angeles, not about movies, and not about their special kind of craziness. Though I can’t say that I know what that other thing would be. But I do know that Mr. White has to resist the siren call of temptation, and try to find it, the world deserves a better White.
Eric White “New Works” on view September 18 – October 18, 2015 at the Serge Sorokko Gallery.
Serge Sorokko Gallery 55 Geary St., San Fransisco. 415.421.7770
Written by POVarts West Coast Editor: Chuck Frank