Compared to some of his earlier work, the new paintings in Brooklyn-based artist Eric White's show at Quality Pictures trade in a more discreet version of surrealism. Previously, White often telegraphed the absurdity of his paintings through can't-miss representational distortions; in these new works, however, he masks head-scratching content by painting in a masterly photorealistic style. Put another way, White's decision to paint so faithfully and directly cues viewers to read these canvases as "honest" or "real." Of course, these seemingly quotidian scenes are quickly and easily exposed as anything but.
At first glance, "Fortify" appears to capture one of life's mundane moments: A man, seated on the arm of a sofa, ties his shoelaces and turns his head to look out the window. The view beyond the window reveals another interior space: a bedroom where a distressed elderly woman leans over a bedridden man. A window behind them presents a third setting, in which a businessman sits at his desk expectantly. Strangely, each space seems to be anchored in a different era. In a recent interview with the online arts publication Fecal Face, White discussed his interest in the metaphysical, suggesting that time and space may not operate on a continuum. So it's irresistible to read "Fortify" as a metaphor for this conception of time. Here, the events of history seem to be simultaneously unfolding in the rooms of some labyrinthine mansion.
A pair of paintings in which White replicates bulletin board-like groupings of images reinforces this concept. In "Collusion: Behemoth," various cultural ephemera is displayed against a baroque wallpaper pattern. Tiny reproductions of paintings by Salvador Dali and Philip Guston mingle with a portrait of Christopher Walken, a movie poster for Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, and framed family photos. In the painting's stylized depthlessness, these signifiers of disparate eras inhabit the same plane. Rather than form a sequential chain of events, then, White's gorgeously painted canvases present a version of history bound to a single instant, in which everything exists all the time.