Solitude, human nature, and dialogue are at the core of Richard T. Walker’s work. Walker employs a variety of media, including video, music, photography, sculpture and performance—often intermixed—to explore and question the experience of the individual within the natural landscape. His approach is often playful in form, resituating elements culled from the landscape of the American West to explore our individual and collective attachments to its hardened myths, drawing upon an art historical lineage spanning German Romanticism to land art to media ecology.
In recent work, Walker has continued to unravel the layers of historical meaning that have come to dictate our usual perceptions of the landscape. To do so, the artist pictures nature as a language. By fragmenting and re-arranging the established grammars of the horizon, the mountain peak, and the figure gazing longingly upon it, Walker questions the preconceptions that render such compositions “sublime” and “picturesque,” pointing out that these glorifications of the landscape depend on the projections we cast onto them.
Walker’s first exhibition at FraenkelLAB in 2016 included neon tubes that wrap around rocks and branches, light box installations, photographic collages, and works incorporating keyboards, guitars, and microphones that appear to capture the frequency of stones and mountains. A review in Artforum noted that the show highlighted the “intentional failure of the art object to live up to the reality of the natural world,” where Walker “urges us to leave his objects and seek the real things outdoors.”
His 2017 FraenkelLAB exhibition projected videos through the window of the gallery onto Market Street. In one, a custom-made vinyl picture disc printed with an image of Mount Shasta spins on a tripod in front of a mountain scene, playing a recording of keyboard progressions. In another, a lone cymbal in the Black Rock desert is animated by rocks that hit or miss the instrument. Writing in the Los Angeles Times (about a separate exhibition of the piece), critic Leah Ollman describes the video: “The performance comes to an end when a larger projectile topples the instrument and—in a deadpan display of the interdependence of creation and destruction—kills the sound.” She notes, “As in his engaging, endearing video works of the past, Walker continually strives to make contact with nature’s own voice, and he comes up against the inadequacy of representation, the insufficiency of translation, the futility of it all.”
In 2019, Fraenkel Gallery presented a solo exhibition in the gallery’s 49 Geary space. The show featured outside repetition, a video projection of the artist jumping on a trampoline, stretching with each bounce as if to touch the peak of a mountain in the distance. The video was projected onto the trampoline itself, compressing the distance between the viewer and the scene. George Philip LeBourdais, writing in a review on the website SquareCylinder, notes that in a “a stunning show, full of colors that glow and pop,” Walker “skips and spins to break down the language of landscape only to cobble it back together in new ways.”
Walker received his MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, 2005. His work is held in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Kadist Foundation, San Francisco and Paris; and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K21), Dusseldorf, Germany, among others. He has exhibited and performed world wide, including solo and group exhibitions at SFMOMA; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; The Contemporary Austin; The Times Museum, Guangzhou, China; The Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; and Witte De With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, among other venues. Walker has been an Irvine Fellow at the Montalvo Art Center and a resident at The Headlands Center for the Arts and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He received an Artadia Award in 2009.