Often seen as neutral, as background, or even as the absence of color, white emerges time and time again as a coconspirator in some of the most revolutionary works of the modern and contemporary period.
WHITE charts the pivotal role of this under-explored protagonist in the making of contemporary art history at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida. The exhibition focuses on iconic works of art that cast a spotlight on white as inspiration, color, material, and even conceptual premise in objects spanning diverse media such as painting, photography, sculpture, and installation.
WHITE features international artists whose experimentation and innovation pushes the limits of their chosen media. The group includes, Tara Donovan (b. 1969, American); Paul Graham (b. 1956, British); Ann Hamilton (b. 1956, American); Vik Muniz (b. 1961, Brazilian); James Nares (b. 1953, British); Kenneth Noland (1924-2010, American); Jules Olitski (1922-2007, American); Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008, American); Rachel Whiteread (b. 1963, British).
WHITE draws inspiration from Kazimir Malevich’s 1918 painting White on White. The founder of the art movement Suprematism in 1913, Malevich purposefully painted in pure colors and geometric forms. Interested in the reduction of pictorial elements to a bare
minimum, White on White is an iconic example that depicts a tilted white square on a warmer white background. The artist’s hand is visible in the application of paint, the textural surface, and the delicate brushwork—ideas that recur in the contemporary works on view in the exhibition.
Although Malevich’s painting is not on display in WHITE, a more recent photographic interpretation recasts the importance of
whiteness as a strategy to art-making. In 2007, photographer and mixed-media artist Vik Muniz paid homage to Malevich’s painting when he reconstructed it out of dry powdered paint pigment in small scale before photographing it. The end result is the large
chromogenic print, Suprematist Composition: White on White, after Kazimir Malevich from Pictures of Pigment. Muniz is renowned for repurposing a range of everyday materials into intricately layered images to recreate canonical artworks like the one on view in MOCA Jacksonville’s exhibition.
Article written by Denise M. Reagan