Sequences: Ode to Minor White

June 19 - October 11, 2021

Take a virtual tour of the exhibit

Sequences: Ode to Minor White explores how the aesthetic and philosophical seeds sown by the late modernist American photographer Minor White (1908-1976) can be found germinating and flourishing in the art of today. 

White was a photographer, educator, writer-critic, poet, and philosopher with a penchant for capturing “presence” in his work, something he tried to teach other aspiring photographers. His long career deeply influenced students of all kinds and threaded him through the most important developments in photography in the mid-twentieth century, bringing him into close relationships with the art world’s key innovators. 

In 1945, White worked as photographer at the Museum of Modern Art and was inspired by curator Nancy Newhall’s 1946 exhibition of work by Edward Weston, which Newhall sensitively curated in unexpected ways to reveal multiple narratives. White subsequently began juxtaposing his own images in highly structured groupings that he would refer to as Sequences. Through this way of working, he explored relationships of form while also seeking to access the deeper philosophical and spiritual elements inherent in those relationships. White said, “One should not always photograph things for what they are, but for what else they are.”

The art of Andrea Belag, William Eric Brown, Niqui Carter, Kevin Larmon, and Jessica Judith Beckwith reflects the spiritual possibilities of abstraction that White worked so hard to capture and teach. All of these artists play with layered and repeated veils of form. They approach their work through a close examination of the parts—each one in conversation with the next—leading to a repetition of forms, phrasing and rephrasing, refining and adjusting to gently uncover something else. This contemplative turning inward, which many of us experienced during 2020, creates a bridge from White to the art of today—and in particular to art made during a pandemic, which, as evidenced by the work in this exhibition, is infused with presence, meditative energy, inner luminosity, and most importantly, spirit.  

Andrea Belag (b. 1951), a third-generation artist based in New York City, has been painting for 40 years. Belag’s sweeping and transparent strokes are visual haikus—spare, quick, complete, and resonant. The purity of her single-action gestures and the fluid interconnectivity of her forms carry a subtle but potent electrical current. The work feels like moving an arm through clear, cool water. It speaks to White’s love of poetry and the possibility of boundless spirit residing in and pulsing through form. 

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, William Eric Brown (b. 1969) spans a wide range of media in his studio practice. He often obscures his medium—for example, by painting cast bronze to resemble foam core. His photographs and small sculptures explore ideas about the interiority of spaces (whether emotional or physical). His cast aluminum and painted bronze sculptures balance deeply studied structure with playful, intuitive building. His dreamlike prints, layered with watercolor and inkjet on photographic paper, echo the experience of driving through heavy fog—at once ominous yet exciting. Minor White’s penchant for playing with the limits of his medium while structuring his works so each would relate to the other is also reflected in Brown’s work.

Niqui Carter (b. 1976), a Brooklyn-based artist, studied painting in college but migrated to digital photography after she went to Parsons Paris (The New School). Her layered photographs superimpose images of nature and color, creating Zen-like compositions that invite stillness. Some works, like “Moonstone,” are straight photography, but others incorporate images and shapes from a vast catalogue of moments, moods, and travels. For Carter, painting and photography are inextricably linked, an approach to creating that White also took. 

A major figure in the 1980s East Village scene during the rise of post-conceptual art, Kevin Larmon (b. 1955) has, over his long career, woven abstraction, still life, figuration, adept draftsmanship, and layers of collage (including hair, spilled coffee, parts of a studio floor, and, often, gay pornography) into intricate and swirling protean cosmologies. In the works in this exhibit, he has arrived at a more purely biomorphic expression. Layering vibrant color and form that can allude to deep space and telescopic scenes from inside a human body, he offers us an explosive world of pure interstellar creative energy. In Larmon’s work, the microcosmic and macrocosmic exist simultaneously. This arousing and disorienting effect invites parallels to White’s famed frosted window series, an example of which can be found in the South Gallery. 

Based in Philadelphia and New York City, Jessica Judith Beckwith (b. 1972) creates immersive installations that unlock the interrelatedness of memory, time, and space. Beckwith’s off-site installation in Walpole, New Hampshire (which can be seen in the video in the South Gallery) uses projected and natural light to “fly” images around a small apple orchard, creating a constantly moving dialogue among the trees, the light, the land, and the senses. White used light as the conduit of “presence” or spirit in his work, abstracting the concrete to move beyond the intellect into a deeper sense of recognition. White was also enamored with the potential of the natural world to contain spiritual messages. It is this same inquiry in Beckwith’s work that connects it so perfectly to White’s. 

— Katherine Gass Stowe, Curator


August 19, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Curator Tour: Sequences
August 28, Saturday, 4 p.m. — Minor White Photography Workshop
September 30, Thursday, 7 p.m. — Minor White: Photographer, Teacher, Advocate


Artwork in the exhibit
Installation shots
Virtual Tour
How to view Jessica Judith Beckwith’s off-site installation in Walpole, New Hampshire
Art Loves Company Blog Post: “Space speaks if you allow the stillness”
The Time Between: The Sequences of Minor White – Museum of Photographic Arts
Ask the Artist