On View from August 29 through September 20, 2012 at Gallery 151. 132 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011.
Gallery 151 is pleased to announce a solo show from Queens-based Walker Fee made entirely with tape. In this group of new works Fee updates the symbols of an art historical past with contemporary signifiers and personal mythology. And with Fee, the symbol is everything, acting as both the characters and settings of his stories. His collage of near-figures form the hieroglyphs of his own language: the Alpha and Omega are coupled with the script of a Met’s logo, the scales of justice are juxtaposed with the curves of a street light, and the contours of a triptych give way to the repetition of a crosswalk. Drawing from Greco-Roman mythology, Egyptian cartouches, and illuminated manuscripts from both the East and West, he welcomes the new symbols of our age to the pantheon of gestures that encompass all that came before him. His works forge a pastiched landscape of immediately legible symbols new and old that shies from figuration and leaves the viewer in dizzying cycles of interpretation and reinterpretation.
But despite the insular impulse that seems to walk hand in hand with the desire to create a new world, Walker Fee’s works with tape are devoid of egoism. Much like the ancient icons and manuscripts he emulates, they speak to transcendence. Like icons, they aren’t mimetic representations of this world, but rather a mirror whose reflection we hope to live up to. And like icons, the materials he uses make his works objects rather than windows to the world. His use of tape is closer to printmaking tactics than painting in spite of his rampant historicism. Fee has described these works as “printmaking without the mess,” and like printmaking, the works are faced with their own mortality. According to the artist, “Altarpiece For The Birds” has changed dramatically since its inception, the colors already fading indiscriminately. The fragility of the pieces adds another, powerful layer to the work, a dichotomy between the timelessness of the symbols, the world they posit, and the very physicality of the works themselves. Fee thus questions the new conditions of art as commodity while using household tape to tell his story, a material as readymade as his symbols. Anyone can work with tape, but these works go beyond what can be readily imitated, and rather encourage people to play with symbols and think about symbols for themselves.