Kelley Walker - Under the Influence New York Monday, March 9, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, Kelley Walker, October 25 - December 13, 2003; Columbus, Wexner Center for the Arts, Shiny: Critical Bling, September 16 - December 31, 2006

  • Literature

    R. Smith, "Art in Review: Kelley Walker," The New York Times, November 28, 2003; W. Robinson, "Wexner Gets Shiny," Aesthetica (online content), July 13, 2006; B. Mayr, "Shiny Feeds Fascination with what Shimmers," The Columbus Dispatch, September 15, 2006  

  • Catalogue Essay

    Kelley’s studio was out in Brooklyn at the time in what was essentially an abandoned building.  One night I went over there to help him clean up and get organized.  Some of his friends were helping him also.  He was using a router to carve large colored sheets of mirrored Plexiglas into hulking abstract tableaux; these things were completely handmade.  They looked, however, as if a computer from outer space had made them.  His studio was filled with plastic sawdust.  A real mess.  So I helped him sweep this stuff up, and then we peeled off the protective covering and these pristine, alien objects were just suddenly sitting there.  Sitting there in this falling down building in Brooklyn.  That was a nice surprise for me.  I was able to see how things come together.  These Plexiglas mirrors were a perfect example of a well-executed plan. 
    J. Smith, “(When You Got It-Flaunt It.) The Art of Kelley Walker,” Guyton Price Smith Walker, Zurich, 2006, pp. 136-137
    Kelley Walker’s I see a Teddy Roosevelt-shaped thing takes the familiar form and concept of a Rorschach ink blot test and, with the application of a thin layer of reflective Mylar, changes everything.  While these blots are typically a portal for looking into and divining something out of, Walker’s work is reflective, and to paraphrase Nietzsche, if you stare into the void long enough, the void stares back into you.
    With its formal suggestion of a viper's face or a butterfly, the present lot occupies center stage of the style typified by Walker’s other works, which tend to take reflexive mediums as their subject.  Whether printed (or reprinted) newspaper or various symbolic representations—the recycling logo, plastic woodgrain—the subtext implies that the things we surround ourselves with are actually physical reflections of self, reminding us daily who we are.  This can be both reassuring and unsettling—in the case of I see a Teddy Roosevelt-shaped thing the analysis can certainly proceed either way.  Its glossy, candy-colored surface belies the sharp-edged, industrial precision of its manufacture. 
    Its flatness, additionally, is an integral concept of Walker’s practice, and the present lot neatly straddles the traditionally problematic two-dimensional/three-dimensional divide: “I went to art school in Tennessee and I basically learned about sculptures through images in books and art magazines.  Now I realize that I always had to imagine what the back of an object looked like.  When I started making my own objects they would usually consist of flat planes in space.  Likewise, during any attempt at photographing my sculpture I would end up feeling frustrated.  So I began to work with an image of an object, skipping the physical object altogether.”  (K. Walker, from an interview with R. Nickas, Purple, Spring 2003) 
    The mirrors are “not only aggressive, but also passive,” (R. Nickas, ibid) in the artist’s words—they change what they reflect, with their routed shapes and serpentine edges.  Alternatively hypnotic and phantasmagorical, I see a Teddy Roosevelt-shaped thing is a reflection of everything and everyone placed before it.  


I See a Teddy Roosevelt-Shaped Thing

Mirrored acrylic in four parts.
92 5/8 x 97 1/2 in. (235.3 x 247.7 cm).

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $146,500

Under the Influence

9 Mar 2009, 10am
New York