Max Mara Art Prize for Women | Dominique White: Deadweight

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Max Mara Art Prize for Women | Dominique White: Deadweight

Dominique White (1993, UK), winner of the ninth edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, presents a new group of works, Deadweight.

Deadweight is a thought-provoking exploration of rebellion and transformation, and includes four large sculptures that continue the artist’s interest in creating new worlds around the concept of “Blackness” and the allure of the metaphorical power and regenerating force of the sea.

Dominique White Portrait

The title Deadweight comes from a nautical term [“deadweight tonnage”, i.e. deadweight tonnage] that calculates the overall load of a ship to determine its ability to float and function as designed. White deliberately inverts this meaning, challenging the canonical notion of stability and indicating the possibility of emancipation through destruction.

The works – undulating angular structures created from metals manipulated into shapes that evoke anchors, the hull of a ship, carcasses or skeletons of mammals – combine strength and fragility. Lost or abandoned material forms which, through White’s treatment, become symbols of challenge.

Part of the process involved immersing the sculptures in the Mediterranean Sea: both a physical and poetic gesture to explore the transformative effect of water on material objects. The resulting works show the rust and oxidation of metals, the fragmentation of organic elements such as sisal, raffia and beached wood, as well as carrying with them the persistent aroma of sea water.

The new commission intertwines the concepts of Afrofuturism, Afro-pessimism and hydrarchy, philosophies central to White’s research and artistic practice. Her work imagines an Afro-future, located outside of traditional utopian science fiction, in an oceanic realm that has the potential to offer fluid and rebellious realities, freed from capitalist and colonial influence. White’s sculptures, like lighthouses, recall imaginary worlds linked to the sea that prophesy the emergence of the Stateless: “a [Black] future that, although not yet materialized, must arrive.”

Deadweight was developed from White’s proposal for the ninth edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and was created during the six-month residency in Italy organized by Collezione Maramotti.

Tailor-made to support, inform and aid the realization of the work, the residency saw White travel through Agnone, Palermo, Genoa, Milan and Todi. The artist collaborated with academics, researchers and specialists in naval and maritime history and the Mediterranean slave trade; she also visited historic foundries and artisan workshops to learn new skills from experts in historical, traditional and contemporary metalworking techniques.

The biennial Max Mara Art Prize for Women was established in 2005 as a collaboration between Whitechapel Gallery and Max Mara, joined by the Maramotti Collection in 2007. It is the only visual arts prize of its kind, dedicated to emerging artists who identify as female and who work in the United Kingdom. Its aim is to promote and support them in a crucial phase of their career, offering them greater visibility, space, time and resources necessary to develop an ambitious new work.

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