Maxine Walker: Untitled
Autograph, London, United Kingdom27 Apr 2019 - 17 Aug 2019
Reintroducing a pioneering artist whose practice focused on representations of black womanhood, Maxine Walker: Untitled is a poignant exploration of identity by a young artist at the height of her career – using photography to interrogate the intricacies of skin, blackness and being. Active between 1985 – 1997, Autograph is presenting Maxine Walker’s first solo exhibition in more than twenty-two years.
In her seminal series of self portraits Untitled (1997), Walker draws the attention to the features of her face in closely-cropped black and white photographs. The sequence of ten portraits share a charged visual journey as she seemingly peels away layers of her surface skin, conjuring a narrative that is more sinister than playful, intimating that her blackness cannot – and must not – be stripped away. Magnifying the delicacy of her skin, we are invited to consider complex notions of beauty, masquerade, and vulnerability.
This exhibition is part of Autograph’s ongoing commitment to curate and preserve the legacy of important practitioners such as Walker, and to ensure that her significant contribution to the cultural history of photography is recognised. Deeply invested in creating dialogues that advocated black art practices in Britain, Walker was an influential artist and instrumental in co-founding platforms to give expression to black female photographers – including Monocrone Women’s Photography Collective, Women + Photography and Polareyes. Material from Autograph’s archive will be exhibited for the first time, including the original contact sheets from Walker’s photo booth styled self portraits (1995). In these colour works, Walker transforms herself into a myriad of characters. Vintage artist prints from Black Beauty (1991) and The Bride (1989) will be on display, alongside the magazines Walker co-founded, edited and wrote for. Ephemera from her exhibitions across the UK chart the extent of her prolific career. Maxine Walker: Untitled is based on Autograph’s 1997 publication of Walker’s work commissioned and edited by Mark Sealy, part of our now-rare series of monographs dedicated to black photographic practice.
Maxine Walker (b.1962, Birmingham, England) resides in Handsworth, Birmingham is deeply invested in dialogues that advocated black art practices in Britain. She was active within the photographic community between 1985 and 1997. As a pioneering artist, she was instrumental in co-founding several creative platforms for black female photographers – such as Monocrone Women’s Photography Collective, Women + Photography and Polareyes – and participated on editorial boards, including at Autograph (then known as the Association of Black Photographers). During this time, Walker regularly reviewed exhibitions and wrote features highlighting the work of her peers: international artists like Joy Gregory, Adrian Piper and Ingrid Pollard. She was artist-in-residence at Light Work, Syracuse, NY, in 1991. Walker’s main themes, in her own words, ‘involve the black woman and the family worked in a “pot-pourri” of studio, portraiture and documentary.’ Her work has been exhibited across a diverse range of national institutions and galleries globally, including South London Gallery; Jamaica Arts Centre, New York; Impressions Gallery, Bradford; and The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Her photography has featured within group exhibitions such as Self-Evident (1995, Ikon Gallery) and Shifting Terrains (1997, Zone Gallery, Newcastle), both organised in partnership with Autograph; other exhibitions include Through the Looking Glass: Photographic Art in Britain 1945- 1986 (1989, Barbican, London); and Decent Exposure (1989, Central Library, Birmingham). Her works are represented in private and public collections such as The Scottish Arts Council Collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Autograph, London.