color can be the theme for a university library, then whiteness
is the presence or absence of all themes--a crowded house of books
and computers, or a single pale page, screen, stone or snow bank
on which we project our visions.
Consider nature's innocent whiteness--a bright day in the arctic
where a polar bear hunts a white seal pup, and snow geese rise into
the clouds. Many animals and plants are naturally white--a form
that camouflages both predator and prey, attracts a mate, lures
an insect, or remains an
adaptive or genetic mystery at which we blindly gaze. Humans have
always sought or created white objects, and this exhibit features,
among many fine works, the brilliance of carved and polished ivory,
the bright translucence of porcelain, the exposed contrasts of photography,
and the white depths of marble sculpture honoring life and death.
these works of art and in objects as ordinary as a bottle of bleach,
whiteness also becomes a powerful signifier of sacredness, purity,
innocence, cleanliness and civilization. Look at the seemingly innocuous
collection of cleaners and whitening agents, then read the nineteenth-century
Pears' soap ad and its
allusion to a white dominated world. Whiteness has long been constructed
as racist ideal, wherein privilege and power belong to Eurocentric
Caucasians and a white-washed society. Here we must
deconstruct whiteness, as Jasper Johns, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sean
Combs, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison and others have done in their
lives and art.
it the bright blankness of whiteness that allows us to say so much
about its effects on us? Or is it fullness that speaks white? Enter
the pale with open eyes.
- Henry Hughes, curator
2nd floor gallery