Selected works by Kelley Walker

Kelley Walker
Black Star Press

2006

Triptych, silkscreened white & chocolate on digital print on canvas

213.4 x 264.2 cm

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
Untitled

2001

Car Windshield

Dimensions variable

Set on the gallery floor as the aftermath of a fatal wreck, Kelley Walker’s Untitled evokes disturbing narratives. Encapsulating beauty and horror, the twisted and smashed windshield takes on a formalist intrigue and decorative desirability, as slivered glass gleans as diamond dust and amoeba-like splotches of paint glow with ornamental celebration. As with all accident scenes, the chilling truth lies in the forensic evidence: coated with candy coloured stains, Walker’s untitled portrays a head-on collision with something abstract and seductive, a deadly force with all the frivolous characteristics of Pop.

Kelley Walker
He tried to become so familiar with his equipment that using it became as automatic as driving a car

2001

CD Rom and Poster on canvas

7 x 9 ft

Authorship and authenticity are primary concerns within Kelley Walker’s work. Hijacking material from the public domain, Kelley further complicates the everyday transaction of images, converting the banality of information media into instances of sublime horror. In He tried to become so familiar with his equipment that using it became as automatic as driving a car, Kelley enlarges a political advertisement to grand scale, converting the original press photo cum propaganda into a fiction, removed from context one step too far. Spattering the image with abstracted puddles of electric blue, Walker turns castastrophe and instigation of protest into video game violence, portraying the morbid pastime of an unseen super-villain. Drawing allusions to terrorism, Walker highlights a more subtle threat: the potency of media as both cause and symptom of anxiety and instability.

Kelley Walker
We joked that under the pavings stones there was gold

2001

CD Rom and Poster on canvas

7 X 9 ft

Extending beyond ad-busting, Kelley Walker’s computerised images don’t target specific institutions or causes, but rather critically expose the constant state of anxiety within contemporary culture. We Joked That Under The Paving Slabs There Was Gold turns innocuous folly into apocalyptic nightmare. Starting with an anti-capitalist poster that radically subverts the interpretation of disaster, Walker intervenes with a no-holds-barred addition to the dread. Mal-construing the poster’s invitation to ‘explore interspatial relationships’, Walker fills the gaps of the pictured road collapse with a river of toxic orange: encompassing the title’s pursuit of riches and the advertisement’s violent message into a supernatural Armageddon, rendered with trippy day-glo seduction.

Kelley Walker
Maui

2001

CD Rom and Poster on canvas

7 x 9 ft

Using the famous Maui air crash photo which appeared on the cover of Benetton’s magazine Colours in 1995, Kelley Walker explores the currency of media images as a platform where abjection and desire become indistinguishable. Obscuring the picture with a mesh of candy-coloured dots, Walker visualises the clothing company’s ‘united colours’ slogan, and makes reference to the pixelised format of digital media. Maui is both appealing and appalling: exposing the malleable nature of the meaning of images, Walker questions a world order where human value is calibrated equally by fashion and trauma.

Kelley Walker
Marantz Model 6300 With Yellow Stripe

2004

CD Rom and Poster on board

213 x 274 cm

Combining the Zen of advertising with the metaphysical qualities of abstract painting, Kelley Walker’s Marantz Model… encapsulates an uneasy spiritualism of a lost generation. Overlaying a 70s advert for a stereo classic with geometric patterns, Walker sets consumer product as the basis of escapism. Cutting through the centre with a translucent yellow band, and obscuring the turntable with a psychedelic pattern, Walker makes reference to Barnett Newman’s transcendental colourfields, and the mandalas used in Buddhist meditation, reducing both to a concept of design. Rendered through computer manipulation, Walker’s iconic image is manufactured and hollow; a sentiment echoed in the stereo’s instruction label reading ‘auto shut off’.

Kelley Walker
schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions (Regina Hall)

2006

CD Rom; scanned image and toothpaste; digital poster on archival paper

10 x 8 ft

Using the cover of African-American lads’ mag King, Kelley Walker gives consumerist response to media provocation. Succumbing to the temptations of Hollywood beauty Regina Hall, Walker offers his enduring lust in the form of lewd and raunchy ‘splatter painting’. Drawing ironic entendres from the humorous Pollock reference, Walker’s expressionism is actually made from squirting popular brands of toothpaste over the image, then scanning it into his computer. Raising complex issues of race, gender, body image, and representation, Walker offers one abject product to counter another, rendering them both infinitely more appealing.

Kelley Walker
schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions (Trina)

2006

CD Rom; scanned image and toothpaste; digital poster on archival paper

10 x 8 ft

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.


Articles

PRINTED MATTER
March - April 06, by Vincent PĂ©coil, Flash Art

Vincent PĂ©coil:With your objects based on the recycling of logos, what is your interest in using printed matter in this way?
Kelley Walker: I am thinking of printed matter as a raw material with traces of history. The logo has an aura of propaganda that interests me.
VP: You made a work showing one of your recycling objects in a collector’s home, which took the form of a bulletin disseminated within an issue of Artforum.
KW: Yes, it was in conjunction with the collective Continuous Project, which was remaking the Art & Project Bulletin, an ephemeral series of mailings that began in 1968. They asked several artists to design the inside and/or back of a flyer that they were to mail out. I went with Jason Schmidt to take a picture of one of the recycling pieces in the home of the collector Marty Eisenberg, and it just so happened that his daughter was having a pool party and we asked the girls if they would pose inside with the work.

VP: What interested you about this image?
KW: When I first made the recycling objects, I was also moving art and installing it in private collections as my source of income. Seeing these collections and the spaces that housed them, I became aware of the difference between how a work of art functions in a gallery and in a private home. Thinking about these domestic settings for art led me to consider the spaces that representations of art occupy as well. For example, with the Continuous Project Bulletin I was thinking about the art object as a printed image sharing a space with other types of images or texts.
VP: The recycling objects are inevitably associated with the notion of appropriation, but you once said that you don’t like this word. Why?
KW: I think appropriation points to or suggests some sort of original — a locatable source that one appropriates and in many ways eclipses. With the Black Star Press pieces (the chocolate riots) I attempt to sidestep a familiar art source, Warhol, as a starting point. Looking back at artists dealing with appropriation in the ’80s, it seems the strategy of replicating in itself became the style or brand of the artist using it. In my works, I don’t escape the effects of branding but think of the processes associated with appropriation as a way of dealing with branding as a social space.
VP: Appropriation became a problematic concept because it has been used as an advertising gimmick by cultural industry. Is that a point of departure for many of your works?
KW: Yes, I often attempt to find parallels between art strategies and marketing strategies. The way Apple, for example, is continuously revamping its products and in the process constructing its consumer base (in terms of need, lifestyle, etc.) is an influence on my thinking about the chocolate riots. Whenever I show these pieces, I shift their physical qualities. They were first exhibited at P.S.1 in a group show curated by Bob Nickas, and the second time was in a group show organized by Neville Wakefield at Barbara Gladstone last summer in which I inflated the image and rotated it 90 degrees clockwise. Then I did a rather large five-panel Black Star Press piece for the Rubells to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach, in which the image was rotated 90 degrees in the other direction. So there was an attempt to deal with the process of making and exhibiting the pieces as part of a larger social framework.

VP: You often rotate the source image. Is that an idea related to your recycling objects, too?
KW: Yes, in the recycling logo there are arrows rotating forward and backward. More specifically, the processes and effects I use to manipulate the imagery and to generate the silk screens in Photoshop and InDesign are standard and preset; they are the primary tools designers use in laying out magazines and other printed material. In these programs you are given a window, similar to a traditional canvas, with programmed options such as rotating the canvas 90 or 180 degrees, clockwise or counterclockwise. The Black Star Press pieces are an attempt to set up a relationship between these design tools, the printed image on the canvas, and its immediate physical support, the stretchers.VP: You then silk screen real chocolate splashes on top a riot image. Why did you use chocolate?
KW: I start by making splatters of real chocolate on glass and scanning them. I then use this digital image to make a silk screen, through which I print chocolate directly on the canvas. An important aspect here is that the chocolate remains constant in the painting both as a material and as a representation of itself, because you’re basically printing an image of chocolate with chocolate. I also saw it as a way of using silk screen like Warhol and Rauschenberg while marking my temporal and conceptual distance from them.
VP: You’ve said you planned to make a Coca-Cola red-and-white version of these works to finish the series. People used to name colors after landscapes or flowers. Yves Klein had his own blue. Today, colors can be brands themselves — just think of Orange, the mobile phone company...
KW: I think anything can come to represent a brand, and I guess the same processes that establish a brand can be used to complicate and open it up to a broader range or use. For the final presentation of the Black Star Press pieces, I’m going to shift the Birmingham riot image from black-and-white to Coca-Cola red-andwhite, which was chosen because of the Coca-Cola sign that’s in the background of the picture. By doing this, I am collapsing a color that could too easily signify a product — Coke — with an historical document whose look or style now essentially functions as a brand itself. So ultimately the image gets inflated and rotated, but, in a way, it’s also deflated as well.

Source: Flashartonline.com


KELLEY WALKER; PAULA COOPER GALLERY - NEW YORK BY JOHANNA BURTON


For artists from Francisco de Goya to Cady Noland, images of disaster and systemic social brutality have served as conduits for writing history and for soothsaying--at once reminders of what has passed and forecasts of the future. Perhaps it's no surprise that a media-savvy uber-company like Benetton also attempted, beginning with its notorious '80s advertisements, to harness and cash in on this power of the abject and the horrible (not to mention the taboo).
The company describes its controversial campaigns as a "means of communication" and as "expressions of our time." In his first solo show, Georgia-born artist Kelley Walker makes this strategy his own--if in torqued, deeply inverted form. Reappropriating and substantially altering an image of a plane crash on Maui that was used by Benetton in 1995 on the cover of Colors, Walker brings the company's annexed image into the fold of art (leaving the green "United Colors" box insignia intact).
In Walker's variation on the Maui plane-crash photo, tangled arabesques of opalescent white, squeaky-clean green, and peppermint pink obscure twisted steel or highlight the face of a survivor still waiting to be extracted from the wreckage. The title of the image is simply schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with whitener, 2003. Benetton and Walker seem to agree on one thing: Group identity (and the ideals of community and solidarity) is now defined less by shared political interests than by what we purchase or by what calamities we endure together.

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