This is a Show by Billy
Postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, Billy White's second solo show at Shrine opened early this summer—several months later than intended. In light of recent events, however, the paintings on view in "This is a Show by Billy" take on a new layer of meaning.
In this body of work, the Black artist—whose practice is based out of the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, California, which serves people with developmental disabilities—depicts pop-culture figures that inspire him as well as with whom he feels an affinity: Elvis, Mr. T, and Eddie Murphy, for instance, are among his chosen subjects.
The gallery offers further background on the show's conceptual basis in an accompanying text, some of which is excerpted here:
When I recently asked Billy White, who is an African American self-taught artist, what he would like to title his exhibition, he quickly beamed back, “Tell them this is a show by Billy, and I’m alive!” In White’s mind, art shows are for artists who are no longer living, like Vincent Van Gogh, who White has identified with deeply ever since suffering traumatic brain injuries following a childhood accident. He feels they both have endured and conquered adversity during their lives.
. . .
Working intuitively, with complete freedom from the pitfalls of self-doubt, White has no hesitation in his artistic practice; he is always “in the zone,” as they say. His works are direct and function as intimate, unmediated expressions of what and how White perceives the world. While this show was not conceived with the current political moment in mind, it most certainly speaks to it.
Billy White, Untitled, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.