A trip to The Walker – a welcome return to normal-ish with Kerry James Marshall, Jim Denomie and Jasper Johns

The Walker will be opening on July 16 but members were invited to a sneak peek this week. So Aine and I went today. The first day we could. In part because I figured less time for COVID germs but also we have missed The Walker. (One summer, years ago, we visited The Marclay Clock weekly in part for air conditioning but also becuase that 24-hour movie is amazing!)

There are so many people cleaning I felt like if we stood still too close we might be wiped down – but in a good way. Everyone wears a mask. The patrons were very respectful of social distancing. And there are directions on the floor to help with a consistent flow. Actually, that’s not a bad idea for any gallery! It gave us an idea not only of where we should go but we could predict the movement of others, which made it easier to distance.

We got to see many of our old favorites through the Five Ways In exhibit, which included highlights from the collection, such as Kerry James Marshall’s Gulf Stream, which layers black history and folklore onto a new iteration of Homer Wilson’s The Gulf Stream. They also had Andy Warhol’s Self Portrait in Drag, a work we recreated when the pandemic was still just a boring novelty. And we checked out William Kentridge’s Drawing for Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old – an allegory of South Africa, Kentridge’s home. The main character is an industrialist, shown reuniting with his wife. From the picture, he created an 8-minute stop action video. So it’s draw, snap a picture, erase, re-draw, snap a picture!

Plus – there had Rineke Dijkstra’s The Buzz Club. We find the woman in white so intriguing. As Aine says, she looks like she’s either coming from church or on drugs in the club. No in between. The second video saw a work (Cochayuyo by Alexa Horochowski) I could watch for hours – if I didn’t feel like I was hogging up the little room.

We checked out the Expressionist Figure. Lucky Aine, they had a Chuck Close, her very favorite. But also I saw a new (to me) Jim Denomie work, an Ojibwe artist from the area. I’ve seen his art lots of places, most memorably outside the Navigation Center, where they sent community members from the Wall of Forgotten Natives (Franklin/Hiawatha Encampment). Normally his work is very colorful with big faces and I’d notice his work from across this room. This untitled work drew me in because of the Wizard of Oz connection. It was a mix of Oz, and a Richard Scarry kids’ book gone blue. The scene takes place in the forest as Dorothy and crew head down the yellow brick road – where the apple trees get mad at Dorothy for picking apples. As a kid, it’s a scary scene and so is this. Here, the trees are bearing witness to cruelty endured at Standing Rock.

Finally we checked out the Jasper Johns exhibit. I didn’t know much about Johns beyond his targets and flags – but I was fascinated with how he takes and idea or image and reworks again and again, such as the Untitled print that takes faces from three other sources (Picasso, an optical illusion called My Wife and My Mother-In-Law and a picture a schizophrenic child did of his mother. Clearly I got that info from the notes, but it makes the work so much more interesting to me.

My favorite quote from Johns: “Take an object. Do Something to it. Do something else to it.”

And of course we couldn’t leave without a walk through the sculpture garden.

I’ve realized that all I can do to survive the pandemic is to distract myself with work, walking, art, interviews, music when possible. It’s a very temporary solution. When it’s done, I’m still left without much hope but at least I’m an hour or day closer to this being over.


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