Biography of Kelley Walker
American artist Kelley Walker draws from contemporary culture to create politically incisive mixed media artworks that often reference pieces from art history. With underlying issues of politics, social commentary and consumerism, he appropriates iconic cultural imagery, alters them digitally, before presenting them in large-scale billboard like canvases.
In Black Star Press, 2005, he sparked uproar at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by making use of repeated images of rioting black people and policeman smeared with chocolate and toothpaste, in a manner that echoed the violent contrast of Andy Warhol’s serial Race Riot, 1964. The museum was forced to alter the exhibition after the art works were accused of being racial insensitive, although the artist was drawing attention to the desensitizing nature of mass media in the face of horrific brutality.
In more recent years Kelley Walker has focused on images of fallen starlets such as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston (using video stills from her music video How Will I Know). “There is here is something amazing and extremely tragic about Whitney Houston”, he once said, “that is very American.” Both Houston and Jackson are connected by having risen to the top of America celebrity, but whose lives ultimately ended in tragedy.
Born in 1969 he graduated with a BFA from the University of Tennessee in 1995. Kelley Walker has had solo and two-person exhibitions at WIELS in Brussels, Belgium and Modern Art Oxford, England. He has exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York and the Royal Academy in London. Highly collected, his work has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Sammlung Goetz in Munich.