Kelley Walker (b. 1969) was born in Columbus, Georgia and now lives and works in New York. He graduated in 1995 with a BFA from the University of Tennessee and works collaboratively with artist Wade Guyton under the moniker Guyton/Walker.
Kelley Walker appropriates the language of advertising media to expose the many flaws within society. Integral to this, is the inclusion of facsimiles of the real world that advertising and media imposed upon a canvas, which moves the quotidian into the realm of high art. Furthermore his work is purposefully defaced to represent the violent relationship between individual and system.
Pop culture is integral to the meaning of his work, much as it has become integral to the understanding of the modern society. His practice often involves scanning images and it is recognised for a cut, copy and paste disposition. The outcome of such procedure is works which are simultaneously alarming and humorous. Celebrities play an important part in his work as a representation of real-life drama; these characters embody all the principles of narrative art, which is watched by the public through the lens of the media. Celebrities come to embody a marriage between art and reality. Figures such as Michael Jackson are simultaneously artist and icon, furthermore they unearth the inherent prejudice present within society.
Appropriation is a key theme within Walker's art. The vast majority of the images he chooses are taken from advertising. In this way the subjects of his work are the capitalist paradigm and its imagistic propagation through cultural channels. This exploration highlights a thinly veiled series of inequalities in which certain hierarchical groups are favoured against others. His use of commodity materials also helps to re-commodify his works. Heaped upon this is a sardonic comedy that further punctures the veneer of equality that is presented by media.
His use of re-appropriated images raises questions about the status of originality and in turn individuality. It would appear that originality is an illusion in the world of mass media. Therefore, Walker’s work is an ongoing process, in which images move through a narrative from functional object, aimed at upholding certain societal beliefs to an artwork, which can be altered at will and often has the ability to also be changed by the viewer. His works become a marriage of everyday culture and high-art and represents the ability of art to fulfil a function, which is counterintuitive to society.