Richard T. Walker: the predicament of always (as it is) / The Contemporary Austin / 20.9.14>11.1.15
IMAGE: Richard T. Walker, the predicament of always (as it is), 2014. Two-channel HD video. Courtesy the artist and Carroll/Fletcher.
On View at the Gatehouse Gallery at the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria
Seduced by the sublime beauty and open terrain of the American West, British-born, San Francisco–based artist Richard T. Walker has spent the last six years exploring the complexities of language and human relationships amid the natural environment. Combining photography, video, performance, and large-scale installation, Walker operates in the panoramic landscape, occupying a position reminiscent of traditional figures of the Great American West and the sublime natural world. Incorporating text and music as part of his work, the artist often speaks or sings en plein air, the earth acting as a silent listener. Walker also takes cues from artists such as nineteenth-century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, landscape photographer Ansel Adams, and members of the Hudson River School and often employs the technique of Rückenfigur—presenting a figure in the landscape from behind contemplating the scene ahead, as Friedrich did in much of his work. For the artist, who films alone and only uses himself in his work, this approach allows the viewer to project his or her feelings, experiences, and thoughts onto Walker’s interpretation.
While living in London in the early 2000s and attending the prestigious Goldsmiths College, Walker would often travel to his parents’ home and take walks in North Wales, a tradition inspired by predecessors such as British artists Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, who use the earth, land, and natural elements as medium. Walker has said, “Being in an actual landscape, alone, walking had a tendency to amplify my sense of self. I was able to witness the singularity of my being there, in the world, in a way that was tighter and more acute. This was often accompanied by a genuine feeling of what it is to be alone and, to some extent, what it is to be human.” From this tradition, Walker merges the element of the body in the landscape with performance, like his contemporaries Guido van der Werve and Ragnar Kjartansson, utilizing props including various instruments, neon sculptures that reference mountain peaks, duplicate posters of the actual landscape, and slide projectors. The artist’s admiration for the American West came from early on-the-run road films such as Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, while American indie rock bands such as Pavement and Silver Jews continue to influence his sound and lyrics. In Walker’s tender and comedic scenarios, he alternately delivers soliloquies and debates with the landscape, conscious that his attempts to communicate will be for naught.
In the predicament of always (as it is), a video installation premiering at The Contemporary Austin, the artist continues his encounters and explores the Texas landscape for the first time. Filming throughout the Southwest, with iconic vistas from Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country, Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas, and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, Walker plays with the idea of “the whims of nature,” or the improvisational incidents that happen by chance when exposed to the elements and unprotected in the great outdoors. Throughout the video, Walker films a series of instruments placed in various locales and proceeds to activate each instrument by throwing a rock or stone at it from outside the frame. This offbeat, somewhat absurd gesture is a new vein of the artist’s practice, first explored in a 2013 performance at the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco. However, the act is not by chance but reliant on both gravity and mass articulating a nonrandom intention, one that is also crossed with playfulness. These actions continue Walker’s investigation as the faceless character who addresses the human condition in the vastness of the landscape.
This exhibition is organized by Rachel Adams, guest curator, with text also by Adams.
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