Coming to America, Billy White’s first showing in New York City with SHRINE, is aptly titled after Eddie Murphy’s 1988 romantic comedy of the same name. Scenes from the film, particularly those with Eddie Murphy wearing a crown, have evolved into a recurring subject in White’s work. This is especially poignant given the current political climate in the United States, functioning as an unconscious nod to a time when our country was more welcoming to the outside world.
As a young boy, Billy White was left in a coma after being hit by an automobile. When conscious again, doctors and his family realized that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury and would never recover full mobility. Mindful of his own injuries, Billy has mentioned numerous times feeling an affinity to Vincent van Gogh. He sees the artist’s unsuccessful romantic overtures and missing ear as similar to his own travails.
White works without hesitation, intuitively, and with complete freedom from the pitfalls of self-doubt and second-guessing; he is always “in the zone.” He often intermixes pop-culture icons such as Hulk Hogan and Fred Flintstone with surprisingly divergent subjects such as art luminary Picasso. Billy White is also adept at giving new life to sometimes forgotten gems of African American culture such as Sanford and Sons and Red Foxx. All of his subjects are rendered with thick paint on canvas, markers and graphite on paper, or more recently three-dimensionally with clay to create raw and extremely evocative portraits.
Billy White has been working at the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, CA since 1994, and is represented exclusively by SHRINE.