As remarked in a catalog essay by collector and art historian David Driskell, Larry Walker fuses the cultural, social and spiritual in "an African-American art tradition that champions issues relevant to life over those that showcase stylistic experiments." At City Gallery East and Georgia State University School of Art and Design Galleries, walls lined with his art mark Walker's consistent approach to the picture plane. Repeated imagery, palette and media frame his continued exploration of the human figure and his environment.
A seasoned artist, Walker has just retired from 17 years of teaching art at Georgia State University. His work as a creator and mentor is commemorated in this retrospective. Prints and paintings at Georgia State represent his early efforts. Walker has long used collage to record personal and collective memory. In excerpts from his 1979 "Remnant" series, swathes of color are interrupted by small fragments of airline ticket stubs, gas station and car rental receipts. "I Got a Ticket to Ride" (1980) abstracts African-American history. Yellow road stripes cross the edge of a tar-colored backdrop where a folded paper card clipped to a string becomes a plane. Below, a few flattened paper penny sleeves and stamps fall toward small newspaper portraits of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.
In a display that dates from the late 1960s through the '80s, vestiges of Walker's rough-edged mixed-media "Shield" series hang next to lonely figure studies and rural vistas. The tissue paper collage "Night Seeping Into the Landscape" from 1969 is a subtle abstraction in red, brown and black. Works from the late '70s note an interest in urban scenes, introducing Walker's signature red wall. At City Gallery East, that wall becomes a dense and culture-loaded obsession. Recent works play out his continued preoccupation with spatial order, while his observations of humanity are coupled with the spirit and emotion that he finds in his surroundings.
"Miguel's Door: Urban Sanctuary" (1998), a wall-sized acrylic and mixed-media work, is dominated by harsh blue. A man in silhouette moves past a graffiti-marked brick wall and collage elements that include a photo of the artist himself. Walker's portrait is frequently insinuated into his compositions in the form of photos or fragmented text references to his earlier exhibitions. Images ripped from magazines create an urban visual language with a distinctive African-American texture. He weaves in images and text that juxtapose sexual references to women, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Michael Jackson, Nelson Mandela and Eddie Murphy. His dark mixed-media is weighted with bits of wood and sections of glass that work as windows -- faces look out from beneath their smudgy surfaces.
The artist's work with the figure has a distinctive personal edge. His charcoal forms are mostly male and the feelings in their dark silhouettes are palpable. "Dialogue" from 1992 portrays the charged exchange between two figures through gestural paint strokes. Angst, sadness, vulnerability engulf "The Wait" (1991), where faces merge with figures clustered beneath a dark cloud.
Rising up toward the ceiling in one corner of the vast gallery, three paper stalks depicting saguaro cacti weakly remember a much more effective installation at the 1999 Nexus Biennial where a darkened room heightened their spiritual meaning. Visual metaphors that Walker found in the Saguaro National Forest of Arizona, they represent his meditative encounters with nature. Human and ethereal bodies that appear in the forest evoke a poignant past and present, while the solitary figure in "Transcendence" reflects a cosmic view of Larry Walker's evolution as an artist and individual.
Larry Walker: Four Decades is on view through March 10 at City Gallery East, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave, 404-817-6981, and through Feb. 23 at Georgia State University School of Art and Design Galleries, 10 Peachtree Center Ave. 404-651-0489.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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