Kelley Walker - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 12 October 2012, Lot 4
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘The collaged newspaper and magazine pages also help inspire in myself – and I imagine in other viewers – an impulse to lash out or cut the canvas – to graffiti it.’

    – KELLEY WALKER, 2008

    ‘I really don’t like the term appropriation,’ Kelley Walker told Interview Magazine in 2008. However, it is hard to find another word to describe the process through which Walker creates his unusual, multi-layered artworks. Walker speculates that ‘Stealing may be a cooler, more street term for appropriation. I think it takes time to consider something to be an appropriation. Naming something “appropriation” isn’t necessarily interesting, but in time it could show itself as being interesting.’ (Barbara Pollock, Copy Rights, Art News, 2012). Stealing or not, his association with appropriation art stems from his use of advertisements and imagery pulled from the media: he manipulates and layers these with other images through silk printing, collaging and digital media, or smears them with common household substances such as toothpaste or chocolate. Walker chooses images specifically for their social, cultural or political associations as a way to call attention to the intellectual assault that is constantly made on us by the pervasive bombardment of advertising.

    It is tempting to draw on links between Walker and artists such as Andy Warhol or Robert Rauschenberg, who used appropriation as a method of subversion; however, Walker’s intention is to engage public opinion and draw attention to underlying issues of society. As a contemporary artist, Walker is fully immersed in popular culture, something he attributes to a secluded childhood growing up in rural Tennessee. His lifting of iconic and current popular images directly from newspapers or magazines is a way to challenge the concept of authorship, and highlights the realities of subjects that have been glamorised by the media. Manipulation of the image plays a key role in Walker’s work: whether through digital alteration or layering, it is done with the intention of creating a visually interruptive counterattack to the relentless barrage of consumer images in contemporary life.

    The present lot is part of a series of works Walker has created in which newspaper and magazine clippings are collaged onto a canvas, then silkscreened with various shades and sizes of vertical and horizontal bricks. A comment on the overwhelming yet transitory nature of popular culture, one in which consumers quickly forget about something as soon as the next new and exciting thing comes along, the images assembled behind the wall of bricks are masked and not easily distinguishable. Opaque forces and superstructures of meaning characterise the crowding of modern existence: while fragments of image and text may be recognisable, the bricks in front are spaced out in a grid-like barrier, largely obscuring their full significance. This obstruction inflicts a sense of frustration or even anxiety on the viewer as they attempt to visually break through the screen of bricks to decode the images pasted beneath them.

    Despite this seemingly antagonistic stance, Walker is an artist who embraces public opinion of his work. He has stated, ‘Sometimes I’ll present a work to the public and listen to the responses – then pull it back, shape it, and put it back out.’ (Kelley Walker in Conversation with Christopher Bollen, Interview Magazine, 2008). In working alongside public estimations of his art, Walker’s practice is unlike that of any other living artist. He even allows viewers to directly manipulate his artworks: readily available is a series in which the artist has produced CD files of his works that can be digitally altered through Photoshop by the viewer. For the most part, though, Walker leaves the images he uses whole. While they may have been manipulated to be made larger or smaller, filtered through a digital screen or attacked with a viscous substance, they are left intact so as to draw attention to the original commodification of the image. For Walker, his challenging of the ways in which images are employed by the mass media is not about the loss of the original, nor are his works targeted at specific institutions or corporations; in a human impulse, what he aims to achieve is a heightened awareness in the viewer.



collage, silkscreen on canvas
152.6 x 275 cm (60 1/8 x 108 1/4 in.)
Signed and dated 'Kelley Walker 2008' on the reverse with front page of New York Times from Thursday, February 7th, 2008, adhered above.

£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £242,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm