EXPERIENCE: READING ROOM A New Solo Show from Alexander Sandy White
Censorship has long been a threat to free speech and artistic expression throughout history dating back to ancient civilizations. In modern times censorship threatens your right in the U.S. guaranteed by the First Amendment that states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The experience coming from artist, Alexander Sandy White, merges drawings of tangible books and book covers depicting books that have been banned and juxtaposes the artwork with Virtual Reality. White questions and explores in his new solo show the impacts of cultural suppression and whether or not we are in danger of permanently altering humanity through the destruction of memories. In our current political climate, these questions are more relevant than ever. [Chainlink Press Release] Proceeds from artwork sales will benefit NCAC: National Coalition Against Censorship.
There is a 3D aspect to your work for this show. How did you get interested in the Virtual Reality component?
Alexander Sandy White:
As an experimental animator I have been working in stop-motion, hand-drawn and computer animation techniques for years now. Because my animations emphasize mood over narrative; Virtual Reality [VR] is a natural space for me to explore an immersive 360 degree environment where sounds and color and line surround the viewer. Many of my animations are animated loops collaged together to form rhythms and juxtapositions that capture a tone rather than a traditional story line. VR is the perfect playground for type of work.
When did you start drawing? Are you influenced by any particular artists?
I’ve been drawing since before I could speak, but my observational drawing started in high school when I began drawing the live model. From there I’ve been building, literally one line at a time. I think of drawing like a language, and like a language there are infinite ways to express oneself. But the mark makers that I keep learning from are Kentridge, Guston, Grosz, Van Gogh, Longo, Richter, Spero, (Kara) Walker. They are all unwavering in their need to understand their cultural and physical environments. Always asking questions. As a drawer and animator, I aspire to do just that. There's something that stuck with me from an essay on George Grosz I read a while back, that contour-line drawing brings clarity to objects and social relationships where as the materiality of painting does just the opposite, making relationships more ambiguous and nuanced. A precise drawn line helps me be clear for what I stand for and for the questions that I am asking.
Can you introduce us to the idea behind this show?
I draw books both as aesthetic relics as well as fragile symbols of free thought that have helped form each of our personal identities. It is tragic to think that some kids haven’t read Charlotte's Web because animals that talk are considered an insult to God. And in stark contrast, Inventing Witchcraft was suppressed with death threats by the conservative Guardian Witches claiming it discredited their religion. In a world of extreme subjectivity and competing world views, an individuals identity is dependent on what thoughts they do collect and retain, essentially, what they remember. Memory is our strongest weapon against censorship. But with smartphones and technology eroding our ability to retain information, the biggest threat to our cultural identity might just be ourselves!
What is your Reading List?
As with most people, my love affair with books goes back to childhood. As well as all of the classics I’ve included in my wall of banned books, I gravitate towards fiction. Again, as a place where the mind can be free. My favorites range from the transporting tails of Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie to the strange short stories of George Saunders and JL Borges. Gary Shteyngart’s storytelling also fascinates me. Super Sad True Love Story is a perfect example of a near-futre fiction that feels uncomfortably too real. And I’m always looking for prose or poetry to turn into animated shorts. But as we all know, some of the best stories to be told are the true stories. Candice Millard account of President Rosevelt’s Amazonian adventure in River of Doubt inspired my last solo show in New York: http://harmony-blog.com/2012/04/river-of-doubt/
READING ROOM | A new solo show from Alexander Sandy White opens on Saturday at Chainlink Gallery in Little Ethiopia from 5-8 p.m. RSVP here.
Photographs: Morgan Palmer