Delayed for over a year, anticipation is high for rising-star Walter Price's exhibition at Camden Art Centre, London (Pearl Lines, 21 May–29 August 2021), marking the artist's first major institutional solo exhibition in the U.K.
Price's paintings are distinguished by their saturated, tropical colours, simultaneously merging abstraction and representation to render mysterious urban and domestic mise-en-scènes.
Working primarily with acrylic paint (usually densely applied), Price often incorporates curious and unconventional materials such as glitter, clear gesso, vinyl, flashe, staples, and masking tape.
The artist's works are thought to range from USD 10,000–25,000 on the primary market, and one painting from 2015, Aset! Go Tell it on the Mountain, sold for USD 43,750 at Phillips last year, doubling its high estimate.
The exhibition follows acclaimed shows at The Modern Institute, Glasgow, and Greene Naftali, New York (both 2020), in addition to institutional solos at Aspen Art Museum (2019); MoMA PS1, New York; and Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (both 2018).
At Camden Art Centre, Pearl Lines features works made from 2018 to 2019 alongside works produced during the artist's studio residency at Camden Art Centre in 2020 and while in isolation in New York City.
Paintings such as It has to rain before you can see where all the leaks are at (2019) and An activity of the spirit (2018–2019) incorporate recognisable elements and symbols such as palm trees, cars, clouds, and human subjects.
Their hazy, dream-like state evokes and predicates a strong lineage of artists including Frank Bowling, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, Thornton Dial, Bhupen Khakhar, and SoiL (previously Torey) Thornton.
Born in 1989 in Macon, Georgia, a southeastern state and one of the most racially segregated in the United States, Price seriously turned to art-making after a multi-year stint in the Navy.
In a recent interview in the Financial Times, the artist revealed the work of Jacob Lawrence to be a key influence for its unique ability to convey a collective politics without the picturing of specific faces.
Price explained, 'It was more about shape, colour and the formal qualities of art. So even though you see figures, you can shift out and just focus on the shape and the composition of the work. I fell in love with that.'
Writing in a newly commissioned essay, Darby English added, 'Price stands firm (and invites us to join him) in a turbulent formalism full of identity that adheres to no single identity politics. This keeps his image strange and buoyant, distinguishing it from so much obvious art.'
The imaginative and poetic use of naming is also important to Price. Works on view such as To accelerate the mayhem, Just enjoy wanting, and Learning to love (all 2020), seem to reflect the mercurial range of feelings experienced throughout the last year.
Works by Price are also included in Citizens of Memory, a hotly anticipated group exhibition at The Perimeter, collector Alexander Petalas's private museum in London, curated by Aindrea Emelife (18 May–24 July 2021). —[O]
Main image: Walter Price, Learning to love (2020) (detail). Acrylic, super white, and gesso on wood. 45.9 x 61.1 x 4.1 cm. Courtesy the Artist, The Modern Institute/Toby WebsterLtd., Glasgow and Greene Naftali, New York.