Critics’ Picks

Roger White, May, 2020, oil on linen, 28 x 18".

Roger White, May, 2020, oil on linen, 28 x 18".

New York

Roger White

Rachel Uffner Gallery
170 Suffolk Street
November 13, 2020–January 30, 2021

I could have stayed inside Roger White’s new solo show here until 2038. Or 2086. Or 2021. From canvas to canvas, time and how we contain, categorize, and dwell within it suffuse this stellar exhibition. There are paintings of lists; paintings of disposable food containers; a portrait of a pigeon; and one glorious fusion of moods that features a Decameron-era figure writing out what appears to be sex-room bot chat in a Late Middle Ages script. All of the works are modest in scale, unassuming.

Three rectangular and vertically oriented pieces have been made to look like mass-produced flip calendars. Abstractions reminiscent of mid-career Willem de Kooning or early Gerhard Richter fill their top halves, while the bottom portions of two present numbered days and graphics for moon cycles in August 2038 and February 2086. Across from the February canvas hangs another calendar with the word May, sans year. Its lower half is blank, a speculative emptiness.

Nothing in White’s world gets massaged too much: Faint pencil lines remain inside weekday quadrangles, and one senses the artist’s hand in his slightly imprecise renderings of different fonts. White’s muted palette and loose Photorealism in his pictures of clear plastic food containers recall the work of painter and sculptor Antonio López-García, but they pick up where he leaves off, riffing instead on the business of objects ultimately destined for the landfill.

How do we pass time during a plague and in this late technocapitalist period? What keeps us, and how do we keep our interior lives intact? This is a show of palimpsests and science fictions (“No Coal, No Mars, No Americana,” reads one work). White’s paintings call to mind Michel Foucault’s famous invocation of Jorge Luis Borges’s encyclopedia in the preface to the French theorist’s 1966 book The Order of Things: “(a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous . . . .” If White’s images propose any system, it’s one that quivers with its own beautiful flaws, the very nodes for reimagining classification.