Pae White

galleria francesca kaufmann

When writing, we Italians sign off to friends and people we are fond of by saying “baci e abbracci” (kisses and hugs). And in fact when we see each other we kiss and hug. For Pae White, as Californian as her work has always been, this mode of expression (and behavior) has become a persona that is revealed in the title she chose for her solo show at Francesca Kaufmann: “Mr. Baci e Abbracci.”

The first gallery space was occupied by one of the mobiles for which White has become well known. Suncloud (all works 2008; her title here, as always, based on a natural phenomenon that is not seen) is made up of almost one thousand small hexagonal pieces of paper confetti suspended from thin (but not invisible) threads hung from the ceiling in a circle. The outer portion of the monumental installation is a kaleidoscope of different colors (green, pink, red, blue), while yellow dominates its center. The title helps us interpret the work but only to a certain point: Yellow is the ray of sun that pierces the haze with its luminous power, even if it is hard to compare the chromatic fantasy dancing around it to the grayness of a cloud.

Also on view was a series of new paintings titled “Around the World in 11–14 minutes.” White selected banal, anonymous photographs shot at the “It’s a Small World” ride in Disneyland, downloaded them off the Internet, and transformed them into canvases created by a professional billboard artist, constructing images in which architecture (the Eiffel Tower, Venice, the entrance to Disneyland) and landscape (the green of Ireland, the ocean floor) are transfigured into blotches of flat color. We are presented with a graphic image, almost a biomorphic abstraction—the world seen as if by someone passing its sights too quickly to register them, with all their shadows and imperfections.

In the other two rooms of the gallery, White continued her creation of imaginary landscapes, this time tending toward the domestic, with a small greenhouse-studio installation (a gallery within the gallery) surrounded by vases and potted houseplants made of paper and canvas. These were of different types: small, medium, and large, some flowering, some not, colored or in black and white—what seem to be red primroses, pink begonias, hydrangeas, violets, succulents, and climbing plants, but also other, perhaps invented, species. They were placed everywhere, yet with a minimalist sense of order: on the floor, in corners, on shelves, on the windowsill, and on the door frame that led into the second room. Here, an autumnal courtyard opened up, populated by dry leaves (created using a particular type of scorched, fireproof canvas), which seemed to be awaiting a gust of wind before swirling in an eddy on the gray stone floor. The mute botanical scenario points to an important aspect of White’s work: her ability to reconstruct the normalcy of things, which never merely serves to decorate, but rather to explore space, creating new geometries and dimensions through color. Her choice of materials, with their simplicity and precariousness, emphasizes the ephemeral—the usual state of things in White’s eyes, whether it be embodied in flower petals, a ray of sun, or a kiss and a hug.

Paola Noé

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.