John Walker has led a resurgence of abstract painters who look to nature, emotion, and, especially, place.
What do Richard Diebenkorn and John Walker have in common? When they sink their teeth into something, they aren’t likely to let it go.
The exhibitions that rippled through our cultural fabric over the past year, at least those occurring in and around New York, have registered the predictable number of highs and lows, though 2014 did manage to plumb one nadir unlikely to be matched for a good long time.
Disclosure, in John Walker’s paintings, comes slowly. A dominant motif — zigzag stripes ranging up, down and across the canvas — colonizes the surface, establishing it as a realm of aggressively brushed abstract patterns. Then one by one, various incidentals emerge — a densely wooded island, a rocky outcropping, the flat disk of the sun — and suddenly you’re looking at a vertically tilted, crazily Cubistic landscape.
I have long admired John Walker’s work for its unique combination of tough materialism and romantic lyricism. I recently met him in his studio at Boston University, where he is the head of the MFA program. My visit with Walker happened to take place on the Thursday after the Boston Marathon tragedy, and I spent Friday’s citywide lockdown with painters Gideon Bok and Meghan Brady.
If the contemporary side of the Armory is flashier with its glamor and energy, this is the tried and true historical wing that presents a more reserved modernist face but not one without a lot of seduction. Here are some of my picks for what to see if you visit.