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The Americans, US Gymnastics Team

About the Photographer

White, Charlie

American, b. 1972

Photographer and filmmaker Charlie White takes cues from American consumer culture and current events to create exaggerated fictional narratives. White often uses an elaborate production team, hiring actors and sometimes a post-production crew, to create photographs, films, and animations. Much of his work focuses on the stereotypical perception of the American teenage girl; examples include underscoring girls’ complex individual identities by transforming their conversations into pop songs and creating animations that center around clichéd teenaged activities like shopping and using social media. White’s pursuit of this subject even brought him to hold a casting call for blonde girls aged 13-16 at Los Angeles’ LAXART space in order to create an image on a billboard that functioned as a public installation to represent the ideal Californian teenage girl.

Charlie White’s “Everything is American” series dramatizes controversial events from both historical and contemporary perspectives. As part of this series, The Americans: US Gymnastics Team (2005) addresses collective pride in exceptional athletes. The work portrays the famous moment when gymnast Kerri Strug was carried to the gold medal podium by Coach Béla Károlyi after she executed a perfect vault with an injured ankle in the 1996 Olympic Games. Strug’s triumph in the face of adversity engendered immense pride for Americans and has become an enduring symbol of the nation’s perceived virtues of perseverance and ascendancy. Károlyi’s personal story—a former Romanian gymnastics coach once touted as a symbol of the virtues of communism before he took political asylum in the United States—further amplifies the compelling sense of American patriotism and its connection to human resolve. In White’s photograph, the interplay of reality and fiction critically examines the shared hopes and imaginings of the American public that were projected onto these figures, and suggests ways citizens internalize and continuously revisit stories through cultural narratives.

Charlie White received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York (1995) and an MFA from the Art Center College of Design (1998). He has held solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012); LAXART, Los Angeles (2010); Oslo Kunstforening, Oslo (2009); the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2009); Loock Galerie, Berlin (2008); Center of Contemporary Art of Salamanca, Spain (2006); and Brandstrom & Stene, Stockholm (2006); among others. Recent monographs include Such Appetite (Little Brown Mushroom, 2013) and American Minor (JPR I Ringier, 2009). White currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, where he is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Fine Arts. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California.