LondonWalter Price - Pearl Lines
Following his studio residency at Camden Art Centre in early 2020, American artist Walter Price returns for his first major institutional exhibition in the UK. During his residency, Price experimented with scale, narrative and material to create new paintings, works on paper, and sculptural works. In this new exhibition, he presents elements of this body of work, alongside a group of new paintings and works on paper made during lockdown in New York.
Walter Price (b. 1989, Georgia, USA) lives and works in New York. His practice incorporates familiar forms and recurring motifs including palm trees, bathtubs, sofa’s and automobiles, which become a language of very personal symbols amid shifting horizon lines and bright fields of colour. Price’s painted and drawn compositions often blur the lines between collective history and individual memory, figuration, and abstraction, depicting uncertain urban and domestic landscapes populated by the suggestion of people, objects, images and text.
Before going to art school Price served in the US Navy, and his experiences as an African-American man growing up in the south, as well as his time in the military, both inform the restless complexity, expanse and reach of his paintings. In a forthcoming essay on the artist, writer and art historian Darby English writes:
“When I look at Walter Price, I recall the instability of the black figure in visual art and of blackness in the public imagination, and I am reminded that constructing an abstract or inclusive or difficult image needn’t mean forsaking one’s own. Price stands firm (and invites us to join him) in a turbulent formalism full of identity that adheres to no single identity politics. This keeps his image strange and buoyant, distinguishing it from so much obvious art.”
Price attempts to disrupt and reconcile what he sees as a ‘wrongness’ in painting by questioning its conventions, from the viewing experience to the materials and techniques he might employ within a work. Sometimes including unconventional materials such as metallics, stickers and tape, and a broad textural range of thickly applied paint and brushwork, Price pushes the mediums of painting and drawing, grappling with canonical issues of convention and taste, all held together within a bold and exuberant exploration of colour.
Despite their sometimes-intimate scale, all of Price’s paintings have an intensity and breadth that is almost filmic in nature – mise-en-scènes filled with familiar objects and landscapes, isolated in space but abstracted from reality and their relationships to each other. Language is used in a similar way to figures and objects within the paintings – often concealed and fragmented, taken out of their original context, the words and phrases become formal elements of the paintings themselves. His drawings extend these processes, an active stream of consciousness that use a directness in mark-making, energy and movement, which is reflected in his paintings.
Walter Price was included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and was a resident with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation on Captiva in 2018. He was Studio Resident at Camden Art Centre in 2020. He has had numerous solo exhibitions internationally, including Pearl Lines, Greene Naftali, New York (2020), We passed like ships in the night, Aspen Art Museum (2019); Walter Price, MoMA PS1, New York (2018); Pearl Lines at Kölnischer Kunstverein, Germany (2018); The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2018) and Karma, New York (2016). Recent group exhibitions include The Practice of Everyday Life, SLAG Gallery, New York (2019); Techniques of the Observer at Greene Naftali (2019); Fictions, The Studio Museum Harlem, New York (2017).
Installation view of Walter Price, Pearl Lines, 2021. Image: Rob Harris