Most Influential

Most Influential, Arts: Anthony White

Artist, curator

By Rachel Gallaher February 7, 2024

Anthony White

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

To the outward eye, 2023 has been a quiet year for artist and curator Anthony White. After his Limited Liability show closed at the Seattle Art Museum in January (the exhibition came after he won the museum’s 2021 Betty Bowen Award), White took some time to travel, recharge, and start creating a body of work that was supposed to debut in London last October. Then, over the summer, OMNI, the gallery set to host the exhibition, suddenly shuttered its doors.

“I had mixed emotions about (the closing),” White says. “I had never had that much work in the studio with nowhere for it to go.” Through the Greg Kucera Gallery, White showed some pieces at the Seattle Art Fair and Forest For The Trees 2023 (a Seattle Art Fair Satellite exhibition), and some were included in a group show celebrating the gallery’s 40th anniversary. White also had work on display at the Museum of History and Industry, where Celebrating Pacific Northwest Artists: 25 Years of the Neddy Awards ran for four months. What wasn’t playing out over social media, where White is very active, was much of the behind-the-scenes work he’s engaged in for the past year.

“There was a lot of bureaucratic and community-focused work,” the 29-year-old says. “I was on a lot of panels and juries for grants and awards, the most recent being the Betty Bowen Award.” (In October, SAM announced that the 2023 Betty Bowen Award went to Tariqa Waters, who was on Seattle magazine’s Most Influential list last year.) Additionally, White is a chair for the Artist Trust benefit auction, which will happen in March.

White sees his participation as a full circle moment — he’s benefited, monetarily and through exposure, from the Seattle Art Museum and Artist Trust, an organization supporting working artists of all disciplines in Washington state, as well as other grants and awards. “I have an interest in doing these things because it helps keep the arts ecosystem and community afloat,” White says. “In a small way, it grants me some influence on shaping the future of the Pacific Northwest and Seattle art scene.”

One board membership he is particularly proud of is for the Lillian Miller Educational Foundation, which provides aid and support to LGBTQIA+ students in the arts. In 2021, in partnership with Artist Trust, White helped in the development and creation of the Lillian Miller Foundation Fellowship for Trans* and Indigiqueer Artists — a $10,000 unrestricted cash award offered for Washington state artists of all disciplines who self-identify as trans. “There was a lack of grants focused on trans and Indigiqueer artists,” White notes. “Offering this grant welcomes in more people.” The Lillian Miller Educational Foundation will fund the grant for at least the next five years.

When he wasn’t attending meetings or helping plan auctions, White spent most of his free time in 2023 at his International District studio. Known for producing largescale paintings — using an electric penlike tool, into which he feeds thin strands of colorful polylactic plastic — White’s work is rife with pop culture references.

Playful and eye-catching, they take the viewer on a nostalgic journey that initially feels joyful and humorous but contains an underlying thread of something darker. As I wrote in a profile on the artist in the January 2023 issue of Seattle magazine, “White has been exploring over the past decade: consumerism, politics, art history, sexuality, vanity, and the vice-like grip of social media on our time and psyche.”

Since graduating from Cornish College of the Arts in the spring of 2018 — selling out his BFA presentation show and attracting gallery owner Greg Kucera’s attention in the process — White has shown his work in a mix of solo and group exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Sarah Spurgeon Gallery at Central Washington University, London’s Public Gallery, the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Art Museum, and other spaces. In June 2023, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, acquired a piece of White’s work titled JOY RIDE, 2022.

Currently, White is prepping work for two shows this year. In May, he will be part of a group show, curated by visual artist Maximo Tuja, at the iconic Sala Municipal de Exposiciones de La Pasión in Valladolid, Spain. The venue is a deconsecrated 16th-century church and one of the city’s most prestigious exhibition spaces that has hosted renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Picasso, and Keith Haring. White will also participate in a group exhibition in September at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

“I feel like I’m making the best body of work I’ve ever made,” White says. “There is a shift in aesthetics and content that I’m diving into right now. It’s consistent with the ideas and themes in recent work, but I am jumping into a voyeuristic approach to portraiture and how we’re seen in public. Aesthetically, it will feel very isolated — I’ve never reduced the visual components down this much.”

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