OTP studio visits: Anthony White
An interview with the Seattle-based artist and curator Anthony White.
We talk painting without paint, million-dollar rugs and the museum show he’s curating next year.
Born in California in 1994, White grew up between Santa Barbara and Arizona before moving to Seattle to attend Cornish College of Arts.
Since graduating in 2018, the original style of his saturated PLA “paintings” have attracted great attention from Seattle’s gallerists along with growing interest from global Instagram audiences. In the last 12 months White’s two solo shows in Seattle (Greg Kucera Gallery and Glass Box Gallery) have both been met with unmediated praise; a further solo exhibition in London (PUBLIC Gallery) has recently been announced for later this year.
ULTRA LIGHT BEAMS, the post-digital group show he curated for Mount Analogue in February generated glowing press-coverage from the Seattle Times. Additionally, While Supplies Last, the quarterly group show he started in early 2018, that exhibits works-on-paper by over 300 international artists, is currently gearing up for its 6th edition.
It’s an overcast Tuesday morning when I arrive at Anthony’s studio on Chancery Lane. I’m here to discuss the work he’s been producing since arriving in London for a month long residency with PLOP. There’s an anxious mood around the foyer as a man, visibly pissed-off, violently fusses over the register. This stress quickly dissipates however, as soon as Anthony comes to greet me at the lift. Immediately approachable and genuinely passionate he gives me a quick tour of the space before we sit down to talk.
Anthony White, 'IT WAS ALL A DREAM', 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP I have read you describe ULTRA LIGHT BEAMS as exploring a ‘post-analogue’ aesthetic. What does that mean to you?
AW I think growing up with the internet is the entry point for this post-analogue aesthetic. There’s an importance to it and I think its a benchmark in Art history’s timeline. We’re on it, maybe we’re in it still but I think we’re at the tail end of it. I don’t consider myself an artist that makes that kind of work, but my interests are so heavy in it.
I like the fact that as human artists we are trying to make works that mimic these gestures and colours that are totally artificial. It’s like we’re creating these machines to do what we do and then we try to beat it in what its doing, or blur the line between artist and computer generator.
ULTRA LIGHT BEAMS was the perfect show to combine that with this day-glo turn I saw creeping in. LA and Miami are two places where work like that is constantly being produced. But I grew up in Santa Barbara, seeing all these really colourful cars and low-riders and a lot of airbrush technique. A lot of low craft art. It had that same vibe, the same energy - we found ways to elevate that into a fine-art space.
OTP How long were you in Santa Barbara before you moved to Seattle?
AW I was in Santa Barbara from birth until the age of about 13. And then moved with my immediate family to Arizona for high school; while being there, from day 1 I didn’t feel like I fit in so I always knew I was going to be going back. I did move back as soon as I finished high school and studied film theory for two years at Santa Barbara City College. Ideas that relate to movement on screen and aspect ratios are definitely present in my work.
OTP Were you producing art while you were studying there??
AW Throughout that time I was doing a lot of tattooing. When I was 15 years old my dad had bought me my first tattoo machine. It was some shit machine you order - kind of like an entry level, beginner machine. He offered some skin real estate too and just let me kind of go at it on him to practice.
Anthony White, 'HIGH POWERS', 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP It seems like you also spend quite a lot of time in New York, what’s your relationship with the East Coast like?
AW The first time I went was the end of 2016 for a residency. I was there for 5 months, made a tonne of friends, a tonne of connections - I now have collectors there who I stay with when I go.
I also met a writer from Kansas City called Julia Monté. She’s very articulate and can do magic with words. I’m doing some research with her for a museum show that I’m curating June 2020.
OTP This sounds very exciting, will the show be in Seattle? Can you tell me anything about the style of curation?
AW It will be in Seattle, right now I’m working with a guy called Greg Lundgren - he’s a curator and he started this production company called Vital 5 Productions. And he used to do a big show every year called Out of Sight. And it was the biggest show in Seattle for 3 consecutive years. Last year was his first year not doing it and then we’ll come back in 2020 and do a big show together. The building itself is over 4,000 sq feet and this will be the first show I curate with a major budget. One quote that I’m going to be using is from Joe Pearson, who I did a studio visit with at the Royal Academy:
“making work about a digital presence, that is so apparent it must highly be considered”.
Whatever you take away from that. It’s vague now but thats where the show is.
OTP Do you think that Seattle’s prominence in the art world is on-the-rise?
AW I’m trying to help ignite some sparks in Seattle, because I think its lacking some of the things in the art world that I want to see; Different techniques and certain artists have never shown in Seattle.
I go to gallery shows all the time and see similar PNW (Pacific North West) aesthetics. There’s a lot of rooted tradition in either sculpture and painting, or the abstraction of this great landscape. You even start to notice the palettes having a consistent tone as well.
I’m in New York so often because of that reason. I go to New York [specifically: 1969 Gallery, Greenpoint Gallery, Postmasters Gallery] get a little bit of energy seeing what's happening and do what I can to regurgitate all that knowledge and show things over here.
Anthony White, 'ALLÉGRO', 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP You mentioned new techniques briefly, your medium is quite unusual, how would you describe the process of producing your work?
AW I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I would call these things - I don’t think it does them justice to call them paintings. I started when I was coming back from New York, and just learning about the ways in which people are taking material, and basically repurposing things to create art.
I use these 3-D Pens - their original purpose is to build like scale models and toys, but I do like the result and quality that is produced after keeping it all flat and kind of using it like it's a pen or a pencil. I think my works are more drawings than they are paintings. You can see the marks. With a painting you can blur those lines. Here you can’t.
I go through 4 tools per painting. They just start bleeding this black gooey stuff and giving me this really bad burn. Its about 200 degrees, yeah so it really heats up, then you feed in the spool. And then you have to switch colour. A lot of the time spent making these paintings is switching spool because you have to get it in, which takes 15 seconds.
These require a lot of pre-planning, given that the entire piece is melted together, so if there’s a fuck up and I have to take a step back, its like two steps back because I can try my best to take off just this orange but its probably going to rip off a lot of whats attached to it. It all starts with my notes of like objects that I come across daily.
OTP They sound process sounds really labour-intensive. How did you split your time here between producing the work and exploring London?
AW I knew I was coming for a residency and that there was a show at the end, so I came in with the idea of making work. For the first maybe four days of me being here, I was running around the city, seeing museums and churches and galleries and arcades and skate parks - a lot of the objects come specifically from my investigation of the city.
It's something I find interesting, that we have this obsession with objects, with products that are made to seem important - we’re fed this idea of desire and I try to question it. Question the importance of these objects and like how close we hold them to our person and how we let them define us.
Seeing a lot of the old masters, I wanted to pull motifs from those paintings, like jester shoes or plinths and pedestals that were used to hold really fancy glassware. And then placing those objects with the slinky googley eyes I think holds an interesting conversation about why some things are elevated.
Yeah I was at Christie’s for the rug show, seeing these million dollar rugs. I was like holy shit, I came back with the ideas of these rugs - using these rococo themed patterns as an elevator for the scene so you can start to associate it with something more glamorous, or grandiose - opulent. I think the desire for those rugs the same as that three year old that really wanted that chewing gum.
I want to remove the tiers of status - I’m trying to place these objects all in the same field for a moment.
Anthony White, 'A GOOD, SHORT TIME', 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP Do you have any London-based gallery recommendations for the reader?
AW Stuart Shave was a good space to check out. Sadie Coles, Soft Opening. And I really enjoyed Block 336 - its a must go to, for anyone!
So the space is run by Jane Hayes (who is also an amazing artist). The space is basement level, so you go in and go down and its this kind of open expansive dungeon kind of vibe and the show fit that theme so well. Another Funny Turn by Sarah Cockings and Harriet Fleuriot, that was the exhibition that was up at the time. Union Pacific had an Anna Koak show, you’ve got to check her out.
I would totally recommend people to try and do studio visits. I’ve been all over this fucking city, just doing studio visits, in locations that I would never go to on my own. Donal Sturt, he’s a painter here who’s investigating child psychology and referencing that in a lot of works which is really impressive. I did a studio visit with Joe Pearson at the RA - he’s definitely worth talking to. A smart guy who I think is going to have a very successful career.
OTP What about some final questions - What’s important to you?
AW Relationships with people. It’s a very broad answer.
OTP Do you listen to music while you work? What’s been recently added to the library?
AW Injury Reserve, their new album is fire. Their past two albums have been on heavy rotation. Kaytranada radio on Spotify. You have to have some tunes where you don’t have to concentrate on the music, where its just the background.
OTP What do you think about when you’re alone?
AW Gosh, when I’m alone its constant thought, what I need to do, yeah the next day or in five minutes. Brain is never fully turned off. I’m always thinking about what has to be done to keep all of the balls in the air and everything in motion. Constant ongoing projects all the time, everyday.
OTP Any closing advice for the reader?
AW You’re here for a good time, not a long time. Thank you.
See more from Anthony White:
Anthony will have a solo presentation with Greg Kucera Gallery at Chicago EXPO, September 2019: