Critics’ Picks

Richard T. Walker, the consequences of everything else (detail), 2016, Duratrans, light box, microphone, amplifier, dimensions variable.

San Francisco

Richard T. Walker

1632 Market Street
June 3–July 16

In his photographs, Richard T. Walker is less interested in documenting landscapes than in transmitting their ineffable qualities: the sound a mountain makes or the way a rock refracts a beam of light. In the sculptural installations, video, and photographs on view here, Walker’s interaction with the landscape of the American West registers with the same sublime quality as Ansel Adams’s photographs of Yosemite or even Albert Bierstadt’s pristine paintings of the Sierra Nevada.

Walker takes several different approaches to capturing the vastness of the western environs. The consequences of everything else (all works cited, 2016) is a light box laid flat on the floor, depicting a snow-encrusted mountain peak centered on a deep-blue sky with a microphone hanging in front of it. The cord of the microphone, held fast in place by a hunk of basalt, is connected to an amplifier on the floor emitting low-pitched droning, the product of electronic interference created by the light box—the mountain singing to the viewer. On the walls nearby, three collaged photographs, together titled an elusive equivalence, show the artist holding up a jagged stone over a colorized image of Mount Shasta’s peak, the rock in effect adding the illusion of tangible dimensionality to the flat picture plane. In both these works, and in the exhibition as a whole, the result is an intentional failure of the art object to live up to the reality of the natural world: The siren call of the mountains in the consequences of everything else will never compare to beholding them in person, just as the stones in an elusive equivalence are a mere imitation of the mountain’s crest. Walker is known for his interest in the Romantic sublime, but here it is a double-edged sword, as the artist urges us to leave his objects and seek the real things outdoors.