Philadelphia

Bill Walton

Larry Becker Contemporary Art

Drawn from his experiences in nature, Bill Walton’s work reveals an idea of landscape as immediate as the ground underfoot, while remaining partial to that which is mysterious and unnameable. In this installation, called Seven or Eight More Places, 1989, Walton brings a refined sense of attention and consideration to place and materials, reducing his experience to a set of visual equivalents which he arranges and adjusts like the words of a sentence, shifting the syntax to correspond to the particular demands of each piece. The subtle accumulation of information animates most of his objects; in that regard, they are more demanding than they suggest initially. The majority of his work is executed directly on the wall and is made of metals, wood, and sometimes of canvas; many pieces are quite small and compact. O’Dell, a carved wedge of painted wood over a curved chunk of patined brass, seems to pose sky over water or water over land, like one word above the other Its side view reveals changes in form that are not apparent from the front. To enhance further the impact of this work, Walton has installed it about a foot above eye level. Together, its size and placement make it feel like the heart of the artist’s experience held up in one hand.

Installation considerations also enrich the experience of Left Hill and Right Hill, two distinct small wall pieces that are spotlit at either end of a dark wall. At the distance required to see them both, they appear very similar; up close, each one shifts in form and color This far and near positioning of the viewer and the different rewards each brings serves as another, and in this case, symbolic equivalent for how any significant experience gets revealed.

First Day Lake is unlike the other work here. It is a small tableau made of two elements: an almost-square, painted-white canvas tacked directly to the wall and, a few feet to its left on the floor, a log of old wood held between two pieces of copper It has been shaved clean and waxed across the side facing up. In this piece, lighting becomes another operative element, focusing on the wall between the canvas and the wood. It has the feeling of natural light that is fading away from one element on its way to illuminate another But its actual stillness wins out, suspending the viewer between the material forms and the possible meanings their relationship might evoke.

In Cinco Flat (Five nat), five metal bars, one each of silver, aluminum, black iron, copper, and lead, horizontally mark the wall. Once again, there is more than one revealing point of view From a central and distant position, the long stretch of the whole is most apparent, offering the pleasures of the wide, panoramic view. Moving off to the side, the slightly staggered height of the metal bars becomes visually active. Walton has adjusted their heights to account for the different molecular distribution in each metal, introducing the effects of another language with which to experience the material world. The purposeful use of light becomes particularly substantial in this piece, as spotlights are repeatedly directed at the wall between each dash of metal. Here the effect is one of carving the landscape into bright valleys of light, reinforcing the metal-capped hilltops and layering our experience of this work once more.

Eileen Neff