For Wayne White, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was just the beginning. As a designer and the voice of several characters on the show, White became practiced at the art the of the anthropomorphic and slightly subversive. If you are of a certain age, you probably recall the slightly surreal slant of this Saturday morning classic that became a cult hit. Two decades later, White is still creating vibrant and compelling works, albeit aimed at a slightly more mature audience.
In conjunction with the release of the new Wayne White documentary at the SXSW Film Festival, Beauty is Embarrassing is a showcase of White’s illustrations and paintings currently on display at Domy Books. As implied by the self-consciousness of the shows’ title, visitors might snicker or blush upon viewing White’s conspicuous ‘thrift store painting’ reproductions implanted with bold typography. There are sly 3-D slogans embedded in scenes of bucolic farm life that reference White’s southern upbringing, the cynicism of life in L.A., and grappling with vanity and ego. There are curse words written in such lovely, fun fonts that you cannot help but smile. White’s background as a performer has shaped his visual work, as viewers must engage with some images for several minutes before deciphering the complete message. When you finally contemplate what you are reading, you might feel a little embarrassed–and you will certainly be entertained.
While in the bookstore, you can also peruse through the 2009 Wayne White monograph edited by Todd Oldham, Maybe Now I’ll Get the Respect I So Richly Deserve. The book provides a broader scope to the past work of White and a look at his three-dimensional pieces, such as the world’s largest George Jones puppet head White built for a piece called ‘Big Lectric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep’. The George Jones puppet head is also a key player in the documentary film, Beauty Is Embarrassing – The Wayne White Story, premiering at this weeks’ festival. If you really want to get intimate with the quirky and novel Wayne White, see the art and the documentary while you can.
Beauty is Embarrassing is on display through April 19th at Domy Books. Signed copies of White’s book, Maybe Now I’ll Get the Respect I So Richly Deserved, are on sale now.