To withstand buffering winds from all sides, 2021
Acrylic, flashe, and clear gesso on canvas
56 x 102 x 1 1/5 inches (142.2 x 259.1 x 3 cm)
Walter Price's paintings and drawings tread the line between figuration and abstraction, creating interior worlds that hover on the brink of legibility. Born in Macon, Georgia, Price served in the U.S. Navy en route to art school, where he honed his own idiosyncratic pictorial language. His fluid compositions encompass dynamic fields of stray marks and quasi-legible motifs: a TV monitor, a sofa, brick walls, automobiles, small hats of uncertain origin, a character from The Wiz. Bodies tend to emerge, fragmented, from abstract backdrops rendered in vibrant greens, yellows, and oranges; unmoored landscapes hover above or beneath the picture plane. Darby English has remarked on Price’s “penchant for punchy color: weighted with value and density.” As English notes, this color “approaches in sheets or lands with a thud, it bewilders, and it is potent exactly because it talks more to the body and imagination than to the head.”
As much as Price’s canvases revel in vivid color, solo exhibitions at venues such as MoMA PS1 or the Aspen Art Museum have also demonstrated his abiding commitment to line, to draftsmanship. A painting like A breeze filled with determination wafted towards us (2018) is studded with sparse symbols suggestive of both personal and cultural experiences—a runner, a palm tree, a Georgia peach—their identities recognizable yet, as curator Ashley James suggests, “never fully comprehended.” Drawing is foundational to Price’s practice, an independent endeavor in which the artist plays even further with detail, his agile strokes of pencil and pastel contributing to a typology of figures and scenes both diverse and coherent.
Continuing in the tradition of artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Henry Taylor, Price creates imagery that is figurative and abstract, individual and collective. Racial and ideological binaries are overturned as well, decoupled from their mainstream signifiers; for English, Price moves toward “claiming and combining cultural differences an otherwise inclined artist would forfeit and separate.” Transgressing bounded ideas of representation, Price’s combinatory logic instead challenges the strictures of visual communication and cultural consciousness, the relationship between what we see and what we know. In the end, Price aims for something more visceral: art that, in his words, “feels funky.”
Walter Price lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Camden Art Centre (2021); The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2020); Greene Naftali, New York (2020); Aspen Art Museum (2019); MoMA PS1, New York (2018); Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2018); The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2018); LUMA Foundation, Zurich (2017); and Karma, New York (2016).
Significant group exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019); Fictions, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2017); and 89plus: Americans 2017, LUMA Foundation, Zurich (2017). His work is in the collections of the Aïshti Foundation, Lebanon; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.