Accumulation of things: Anthony White’s depictions of contemporary consumer society.
I would say that your work is something like Pop Art meets the Dutch / Flemish Masters meets the Internet information overload. How can you describe your unique approach to art?
I would agree with your evaluation. It’s this careful mashup of all things, all the time, right now. Those movements, and platforms are subjects that I am interested in and impressed by. I enjoy how Dutch Masters encapsulate the life of a person and explain more than just their desires, aspirations and wealth, they often narrated lifetime characteristics and miles traveled mostly through specific accoutrements. And how the Pop Art movement taught us to think critically about mundane and trivial staples, and commercial culture. Those and many others have been important subjects I’ve investigated as part of my personal research in and out of art school, and even in the most vulnerable places like the bathroom- the internet is hard to get away from.
It’s brilliant and crazy how accessible everything is at any moment, and that’s where I think my approach to the way I work sort of started… It was my investigation in technology, or me being aware or conscious of it. Being totally aware of the little advances and technological developments that more often than not become obsolete before you know it. I started using the PLA after seeing a machine work with it. I was intrigued by that. This robot like thing moving its part to slowly create a miniature replica of Megatron. I don’t know.. It was all so cool. I enjoyed realizing that this machine could technically reproduce anything. It made me want to try and perform the same function. Sometimes I do feel like a little mechanical robot, repeating the same gesture over and over for hours on end. There are still surprises within the practice and that’s part of what keeps me interested.
Your art includes collage in a very conceptual way. Which is your relationship with collage? What led you to have collage as reference but not as a technique?
The accumulation of things. Everything. All the stuff that fills our junk drawers or closets or trash cans. It’s all the stuff that fills our lives and ultimately defines us in specific moments or periods, or sometimes even defines our location and age. The visual qualities of the work definitely resemble collage. They’re these big pictures with individual parts and pieces, that I try to composite together to tell a story about the world, or myself or my community. I think we all try to piece things together throughout life to create a narrative… Some more fabricated or curated than others, but even those have much more truth than we would immediately believe.
I think back to the first time I actually made a collage, like in grade school, in class. You collect a bunch of magazines based on the covers you find most interesting, and take scissors and glue and just start cutting out the things you find most visually attractive. Then you combine them, mix them up and move them around, and eventually you get this accumulation of things that sort of make up a fantasy. It’s fun. My practice operates similarly, but I think it highlights the glut and overconsumption and darker sides in hyper-consumerist society.
What does drawing / painting have that cut and paste hasn’t got that led you to make collage in such an un-collage way?
The technique is definitely untraditional, and I am using my material in an unconventional way that I have found to be a lot of difficult fun. But I don’t think it’s drawing and painting over cut and paste, they’re just entirely different things. I like the references that my work makes. From a distance they can resemble cut and paste collage, or embroidery, or even a painting for that matter, like oil or acrylic. I grew up drawing and painting, and giving tattoos, sometimes I still do, but I think that kind of practice with the hand is why I still make work in a similar way. Not sure though, I can agree with calling them collages. Most of the time they are by its proper definition- a collection of things… And those things have a very wide range of use, haha.
Are your pieces some sort of personal diary where you reference moments of your life? Or is there a social commentary on consumption culture? Or is it about both of them?
Some of the works act as moments, or phases of my personal existence, yes. But I think even that is a comment on society as a whole. Some of the still-lifes and/or selfies act as a window into a specific subculture, or can distinguish a specific region of the world, or someones economic or social status. Those lines are carefully blurred in the early stages of making a piece though. I like to remove those hierarchical tiers, and finesse the balance within the composition to give every component equal consideration and value. Making everything at the surface look desirable, even if its a day or two old slice of pizza or a knock-off Gucci belt. My work is an observation of, and a comment on consumer culture.
Which are your main concerns / issues that you want to express through your art?
I think the work succeeds when it influences people to just look a bit more carefully at the world. Either when you start to recontextualize everyday objects or when you question and critique the nuances, and the mundane. Or even when you start to notice the ‘invisible’ or highly disguised things that contribute to and help build people’s character. You know, thinking about the importance or the value of things you didn’t normally. Just looking a bit more carefully, or taking a bit more time, especially in this fast paced and ever changing day.
There’s a huge difference between the amount of time needed to make one of your extremely detailed artworks and the image gulping pace of internet and social media. How do you feel about this?
I spend so much time with each of my works. It’s actually pretty intimate. At my desired, now normal, size and scale I typically spend about 140 hours with each piece, and in contrast, upload it to the web in seconds haha it’s wild. I’m a fan of the internet, and social media but I am aware that things get lost in that realm. The details and some qualities of my work do not come across the screen as they would in person, that’s why I encourage everyone around me to actually go and look at art. You miss so much on the screen but hey, I am happy that I get to see the things I wouldn’t be able to without the privilege of the internet, and I don’t see it slowing down. I don’t ever measure or equate the hours spent to the seconds of a swipe or a tap… That would distract me. But I do like the connections and relationships that I have been able to make over the internet, and it’s amazing when they’re able to later blossom in person.
Can you tell us something about While Supplies Last, your curatorial project?
While Supplies Last started in early 2018 at the same time I was preparing for my final graduation show at Cornish College of the Arts. I wanted to show the people around me, in my community, some of the great work that I was immediately surrounded by, as well as amazing work that I saw online. The idea floated around my head a bit before building up the courage to start asking artists directly if they would be willing to participate in this crazy idea of an art show. But somehow it happened… Somebody had to do it… The structure of the show is organized as a one night event, and all works, regardless of material, career history, experience, are all fixed at $30. I was nervous at first because it was essentially asking artists to donate work for the greater cause and mission behind WSL, which is to active a space, even for a short time, that is accessible, safe, fun, alive and centered around art and community. It’s too often that I witness good work go unnoticed, and I really wanted to try and do what I could to get some of it in front of new eyes. The success of the show in Seattle has been unbelievable, and the support for it is exactly what fuels and pushes it to its next iteration. We have had a total of 6 shows, over 500 participating artists from all career levels; emerging, young, established, etc. and from all over the world, seriously, places I had never even heard of, and thousands of works on paper. Just thinking about where this project started, and the contributions and support it has received makes me really happy. While Supplies Last is definitely the most work I have ever performed on any project. But I really love it, that’s why I continue to do it. We are currently gearing up for our 7th iteration of the show.
Which is the role of social media in your work both as an artist and curator?
Social media has become a thing that I use as a tool. Whether it be for research, news, business purposes, all things. It keeps me connected with my peers, and events that interest me, and it has helped me establish and build new relationships of all kinds. It’s important to me as an artist, and as a curator in different ways. Depending on the platform, the complexities and vast and broad pools that you virtually swim through vary, but I will be honest and say that Instagram is the first place I have been able to navigate both casually and professionally… It has helped immeasurably with most of my curatorial efforts, and has been a place where some first correspondents have been made in order to work with galleries, collectors, and other artists far and near.
Within my own practice, social media was the place I was looking at closely when trying to wrap my head around perceived identity, and ones curated image, or self-image. I find interest in the different ways people choose to display themselves on social platforms. That, and the concept of ‘truth’ is an entirely separate interview.
Which artists had caught your attention lately?
I am really enjoying the work by Pratt MFA student Nicholas DePass, London based artists and friends Realf Heygate and Oli Epp, LA artist Canyon Castator, Kalina Winters, Rute Merk, Seattle based artist Hank Reavis, New York based artist Anna Park, Caitlin Cherry, on and on, so many to name… I could make this list endless if you let me. I think this just goes to show that my taste isn’t specific, and the flavors vary, or that there’s often something i find interesting in many different types of work.. I’m currently in the process of curating a museum exhibition here in Seattle, and all of the artists I am working with on that show I am a huge fan of. Stay tuned.