New York

John Walker

Trying to understand my expectations of art. Anticipation before going to see John Walker’s “Projects.” I remember being impressed by his chalk drawings shown about two years ago in London. Yes, there is another in his current exhibit. A blackboard painted on the wall and dusted with white chalk which accumulates in varying densities on the surface. The image a negative, hieroglyphic in design, presumably created by pulling off tape to trace lines in the original surface after the chalk has settled. The lines look definitive, bold in their straight-edged blackness against the powdery haze of the surface. And yet one senses their temporality. A temptation to blow on the chalk to see if they might not disappear. But there it ends. What more do I want? Is it an illusion that the earlier drawings seemed more integral to their medium? The way in which one uses a blackboard. Marking and erasing as an ongoing process. Thoughts emerging, approaching clarification, only to be wiped away and begun again. At times a sweeping gesture, the rush of spontaneity. At times more tentative, hesitant to declare. But perhaps my memory is faulty. For here Walker’s drawing seems static, rigidified into convention despite the known fragility of the chalk. Is it only the medium which takes it out of tradition?

In another room there are 12 lithographs, each made from several plates in varying tonalities of gray. The markings simulate chalk drawings—swirls and punctuations of the eraser. But the end product is stabilized, defined as a print. And maybe because the imagery here is permanent, I think about painting. Is chalk merely a substitute for paint brushed and scraped in an Abstract Expressionist manner? To what extent does a different material become just a device for restating tried ideas? And at what point does it add to those ideas, expanding into possibility? Questions, not answers.

Susan Heinemann