Opening next Saturday, July 8th from 11am to 2pm, Labor presents The Rainy Season, the second solo exhibition in Mexico by American painter Roger White (Salem, OR, 1976). At 12.30pm, the artist will be in conversation with painter Elsa-Louise Manceaux about this new series of paintings in which White explores the different manifestations of light in contact with everyday objects.
Roger White warns the viewer, «I don’t know anything about flowers. I don’t know what they mean, their symbolic or literary associations, how or when they grow, nothing.» What interests him in the flowers is that they suggest «what, or where, the content of the painting is». In his paintings, the flowers are usually surrounded by various everyday objects such as pieces of paper, pens or glasses. The recurring element of glass multiplies the suggestions, such as the vase that contains them, the table that serves as a support, the reflection of a window outside the image frame, and the mirror in which the flowers, at times, seem to look into or appear duplicated.
White is the co-founder of the magazine Paper Monument and his literary interests are reflected in these thirteen oil works, as the flowers cohabitate with the literature Roger read while creating each still life. Literary authors such as: the restless American writer, Jane Bowles, with stories about isolation and the escape into nothingness; the Swiss, Robert Walser, who aspired to a gray life of invisibility; and the Japanese writer, Yasushi Inoue, whose novella The Counterfeiter (1951) seduced Roger White so much that he claims, «sneaking it into a painting was too good of an opportunity to pass up.» The novella is about a journalist hired to write the biography of a famous artist of floral still life paintings. From his research, the journalist discovers that many of the paintings are forgeries made by a friend of the artist, a man who spent his last years trying to create a firework that had the shape and colors of a chrysanthemum. In Roger White’s painting “Chrysanthemum and Gerbera Daisies and a Mirror” (2023) he makes a direct reference to the meta story from Inoue and delights us with his personal vision of how he imagines the chrysanthemums.
Flowers, associated with beauty, the passage of time and many allegories, have been a perennial motif throughout art history. The artist states, about the still lives of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, «I used to think that there was a clear opposition between ‘The Fruits of Empire’ paintings of flowers, seafood, game, and often literal fruit, and the vanitas paintings of skulls and timepieces. And the sobriety of the latter was intended to provide a moral license for the appetites that were satisfied in the former. Like, enjoying oysters because you are going to die. But, in fact, cut flowers are like the living dead. What you notice when you paint them is that they move a lot. This complicates the whole metaphorical system.» This is why the artist insists his fundamental intention for the canvas works of “The Rainy Season” was to be very honest about the light conditions under which the flowers are represented through painting. These works capture the reflection of sunlight, twilight, and lamp light, the sensation of being in a room at a certain place and time with these beautiful objects, and the mood of the artist at the moment of putting what he sees onto the canvas.