14 December, 2006

Kelley Walker

Since 2000: Printmaking Now
Kurator: Judy Hecker
Sarah Morris, Andrea Zittel, John Currin, Matthew Barney, William Kentridge, Richard Tuttle, Elizabeth Peyton, Paul Chan, Kelley Walker, John Armleder, Swoon , Nicola Lopez

Kelley Walker is a bloke.

Kelley Walker
Multimedia Artist
“I really don’t like the term appropriation,” says Walker, while taking a break from prepping for his current show at Greene Naftali. A collaboration with fellow “Greater New York” artist Wade Guyton, it’s an installation of coconut lights and silk-screens that borrows freely from advertisements for Ketel One vodka. “He has a rich and complicated practice he’s been developing over many years—he’s not a flash in the pan,” notes Artforum editor Tim Griffin. Despite Walker’s feelings about the A-word, his non-collaborative output (including scanned images from the Birmingham race riots, smeared with chocolate and toothpaste) is represented by Paula Cooper, a gallery known for appropriation artists. He’s also sold his art in CD files that can be manipulated with Photoshop, an enlightened approach to digital piracy.




Using the potency of advertising media, Kelley Walker’s prints appropriate iconic cultural images, digitally altering them to highlight underlying issues of politics and consumerism. In Black Star Press, Walker presents large-scale billboard-like canvases of racial unrest. Set at 90 degree angles, the images of a white policeman and black youth literally portray a world turned on end. Splattered with abstracted patterns in symbolic white and chocolate, Walker’s gestures mimic violence and contrast, merging ethical corruption and graffiti pop. Printed as a dyptich, Black Star Press is desensitised through repetition, replicating the multiplicity of mass media as vast fields of anesthetised brutality.

Kelley Walker ‘s schema... recodes the interpretation of media. Using the front cover of King magazine, a publication vocal in its support of curvaceous women (rather than the mainstream too-thin ideal) as a proactive statement, Walker bathes hip-hop diva Trina in a variety of dental products (promising extra whitening effects). Using wry humour, Walker examines the underlying politics of ethnic and sexual representation as marketing strategies. Printing his digitised photos onto traditional canvases, Kelley Walker frames the disposable transience of advertising in the realm of high art; the immediacy of his images gains momentum as objects of critical contemplation, and lasting icons of social representation.



Kelley Walker's solo debut is tantalizing, but it fails to make good on the promise he has displayed in group shows. Intelligence, physical invention and drop-dead beauty are abundant, but rarely in the same artwork. Mr. Walker has an impressive ease with mixed mediums and meanings, the formal and the political, the handmade and the digital. Images are appropriated, enlarged and manipulated, turned into posters and applied to cut-out steel silhouettes reminiscent of the work of Cady Noland.


Kelley Walker's second solo show is optically on fire, intellectually edgy, physically lush, and installed like a wrap-around panorama. His digital prints and chocolate on canvas are vivacious and stylish, his touch and domineering scale luring. Nonetheless, the show is vexed by questions. Walker's work is a kaleidoscopic combination of Warhol, Pollock, Dieter Roth, Richard Prince, and the artist no one wants to mention for fear of casting a pall over the mélange, Julian Schnabel.



the 2006 Whitney Biennial

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