“Not since John Marin burst upon the American art scene in the 1920s and 30s have paintings of Maine succeeded to a comparable degree in setting a new standard for pictorial innovation in the art world at large.”
(Hilton Kramer, “Painter John Walker Evokes Maine Coast,” New York Observer, August 9, 2004.)
Currently a Professor of Painting of the Graduate Painting Program at Boston University, John Walker (b. 1939) is among the most respected artists living in the United States. Over the last fifty years, the English-born painter has participated in over 100 exhibitions. His work can be seen in major collections and institutions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Tate Gallery (London), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), and The Harvard University Art Museums (Boston). Adelson Galleries is proud to reintroduce John Walker to Boston with the exhibition, New Works, featuring seventeen recent paintings.
The large and small works we have selected demonstrate Walker’s mastery in mixing his observation of the natural world with imagination and introspection. The seemingly abstract paintings in this exhibition have origins in what Walker has seen and experienced. Often painting en plein air, Walker’s compositions derive their form from direct surveillance of Maine’s coastline. With nature as his guide, he molds his own sensibilities and memory into his visual template.
The scale of Walker’s work has typically been monumental, forcing the viewer into his periphery. The large, vertically oriented paintings stretch upwards, embracing the observer into a focused perspective. Rather than scanning the horizon line, as one would view a traditional landscape, the paintings are read from top to bottom and back again. The scenes draw their audience close and often feel intimate, regardless of their size.
Over the past decade, Walker has begun exercising his skill in producing powerful imagery on a much smaller scale. Upon moving into his new studio in Maine, formerly an old community hall, Walker discovered a plethora of old Bingo cards. Preferring a dark background, he initially experimented painting on the backs of the cards, which are solid black. Eventually, he turned the cards over and incorporated the lines, numbers, and letters into the final compositions. In each card, the horizon line rests between the gridded numbers and the word, “Bingo,” or in some cases, “Beano” – another title given to the game. In these evocative vignettes, Walker re-creates the perspective seen in his larger compositions.
While working on the Bingo cards, he simultaneously painted in his larger format, which informed the trajectory of his evolving oeuvre. A selection of these new paintings spells “Beano” above the horizon line, and echoes the grid of the bingo card below the heading. Intersecting lines that meet at right angles dominate some compositions. The thick stripes of primary colors defiantly contrast the landscape behind them, bringing one back to the game that he references. Looking between the seven by five inch bingo card and the seven by five foot canvas, the viewer may surmise subtler conversations the paintings are having with one another.
Being unafraid to investigate new forms and colors, Walker continues to evolve in his artistic journey. His present work incorporates the visions and recollections picked up along his path. Without being constrained to a particular formula or direction, Walker moves forward with an open mind. The result of this progressive attitude, after many years in the art world, distinguishes John Walker in the 21st century.
Adelson Galleries Boston