Works Gallery
Artist Information

Cate White

Hello Cruel World

Opening Reception: Saturday, May 13th, 2017, 6:00pm – 9:00pm Exhibition Dates: May 13th – June 2rd, 2017

“Hello Cruel World”, Cate White’s first solo exhibition in San Francisco since her Tournesol Award show “Both on Earth” at the Luggage Store Gallery in 2015, sees the artist returning with her darkly humorous and uniquely cutting approach within painting, examining topics ranging from Bay Area race relations to the history of the medium itself.  After a busy few years that have seen the artist working everywhere from a rural desert residency in Roswell, New Mexico to a newly realized studio in the verdant countryside of northern California, “Hello Cruel World” boldly re-establishes the artist as one of the most exciting voices within contemporary painting both locally and internationally.

“…the margin is more than a site of deprivation…it is also the site of radical possibility, a space of resistance…a site one stays in, clings to even, because it nourishes one’s capacity to resist. It offers to one the possibility of radical perspective from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds.”- bell hooks

From a residency in the southern New Mexico town of Roswell, to the artist’s homebase in West Oakland, to a newly realized studio nestled within the hippie heaven of Mendocino—frontier, to hood, to pastoral idyll–Cate White’s latest body of work has seen the painter working across the fringes that comprise so much of the American West. Having spent her formative years in what White describes as, “a back-woods culture of guns, 4x4s and meth in Northern California”, the artist finds a certain familiar comfort within communities on the margins, with these experiences informing both the subject matter and philosophical perspective that permeate the artist’s work. By transposing underrepresented experiences into the realm of painting–a traditional language of power, White is able to complicate dominant beliefs surrounding gender, race, class, beauty, power, value and morality. The paintings within “Hello Cruel World” form bridges spatially and socially, integrating disparate communities and blurring borders—elevating shared human experience over cultural division—all doing so with a brazen humor and sly wit that are central to the artist’s expressive style.

A partially nude female figure adorned in loose fitting jeans, trucker hat and cape stares back quizzically at the viewer, perched atop a tall and smiling horse, both figures depicted in a confident and loose manner set against an ominously barren landscape. “Superheroine” by Cate White embodies the frenetic compositions saturated with contradiction that make the artist’s paintings such an enjoyable viewing experience—raising a typically vulnerable figure to a place of power, both employing the grandiosity of history painting yet cutting it with a disarmingly humble approach to each subject’s handling. Suggestions of Putin’s shirtless horseback escapades come to mind as does Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” in all its propagandistic and romantic glory, yet contrasting any serious allusion is a cartoony outline of a naked male figure barely the size of the horse’s hoof pointing upwards exclaiming “Is it all gonna be like this cuz i’m not impressed”.

Fluidly bouncing between insular art worlds and spaces far outside the prior’s reach, Cate White has taken a particular interest in questioning narratives that are deemed useful by an academic art world yet are rejected as irrelevant or counterproductive in the communities that lie outside. Refusing prescribed social roles has allowed the painter an intimacy across social divides. As a white artist whose work often includes images of her black friends, inevitable questions surrounding race and representation arise. When the people in the paintings are part of the conversation viewers must also reexamine their own assumptions about whose voices have authority in the discourse around these subjects. And while issues of race and class often lead the conversation surrounding the artist’s work, within these loose figurative renditions lies an implicit recognition that these constructs emerge out of the human desire for power. The paintings thus function as investigations of power—its manifestations, its limits, its damage, its antidotes, its masks, its very definition—informing the artist’s handling of varying subjects: existential reckoning, mundane observations, art historical revisions, media ideals of success, happiness, comfort and romance, portraits of friends and imagined characters alike.