From June 9 through July 15, Sikkema Jenkins & Co. will present a solo exhibition of work by Larry Walker. Curated by his daughter and gallery artist, Kara Walker, the exhibition surveys nearly 50 years of Mr. Walker’s artistic production. The exhibition features several dozen works on paper in a range of mediums and styles dating back to 1967 as well as mixed media paintings from the past decade.
Reflecting the social upheavals that began in the late 1960s, Walker's Children of Society series, which constitute the earliest works in the exhibition, attempts to negotiate the will of the body against graphic constraints like weights, walls, and limited horizons, representative of an oppressive social order. This marrying of figures with graphic symbols and landscape is a recurrent theme in Walker’s work, as is particularly evident in his Metamorphic and Saguaro Sprits series, which can be seen as questioning our response to nature as well our relationship to each other. Urban blight and human resistance is considered in Walker’s Wall Series. Including both collaged works on paper and canvas, the series incorporates newspaper and advertising images that are torn and painted over.
Organizing the exhibition was a deeply personal experience for Kara Walker resulting in a more nuanced understanding and appreciation for her father and their relationship as both family and fellow artists: “Organizing this exhibition is part curatorial inquiry, part familial legacy. As a daughter I am pressed to uncover clues to my father’s hidden self, as it has long been apparent to me that his work offers insight into his humanity. The drawings - figurative and abstract, landscape and “innerscape” - are the background hum of my life from infancy on. However as an artist I seem to be at cross purposes, on one hand exposing Larry Walker’s work to a wider public and critical inquiry while negotiating the departures and liberties I have taken in my own work on the other.”
A Georgia native, born in 1935 as the youngest of eleven children, Larry Walker traces his trajectory across the United States. Following his father’s death in 1936 and the onslaught of the Depression, his family members began to migrate to new locations in search of a better life. Walker was raised in Harlem, New York where his interest in art flourished. After graduating from the High School of Music & Art (now Fiorello H. LaGuardia School of the Arts), Walker relocated to Detroit for college, receiving both his B.S. in Art Education and M.A. in Drawing and Painting from Wayne State University.
In 1964 Walker began his long career as an educator at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California where he was a professor and later chair of the Department of Art. In 1983 he accepted a position in Atlanta as a professor and director of the art program at Georgia State University. He retired from the University in 2000 and currently lives outside Atlanta with his wife Gwendolyn. He continues to make art in his home-studio and is represented in Atlanta by Mason Fine Art Gallery.
Walker has an extensive exhibition history. He has been the subject of over 40 solo exhibitions and has participated in over 200 group exhibitions since 1971. His work is in the collection of the High Museum in Atlanta, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.