After debuting at Autograph in London, the first exhibition of Maxine Walker's work in more than 22 years toured to Birmingham.
Untitled reintroduced a pioneering artist whose practice focused on representations of black womanhood, a poignant exploration of identity by a young artist at the height of her career. Active between 1985 - 1997, Walker used photography to interrogate the intricacies of skin, blackness and being.
This exhibition was part of our 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.
In her seminal series of self portraits Untitled (1997), Walker draws our 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.
Material from Autograph’s archive was exhibited, 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) were 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.
was active within the photographic community between 1985 and 1997 and deeply invested in dialogues that advocated black art practices in Britain. A pioneering artist, she was instrumental in cofounding 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, such as Joy Gregory, Adrian Piper and Ingrid Pollard. 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 and is represented in private and public collections. She studied at West Surrey College of Art & Design (now University of Creative Arts). Walker resides in Handsworth, Birmingham.
Writer and curator Mariama Attah considers the roles of stereotypes, beauty, Blackness and resistance in Maxine Walker’s photographic practice.Read now
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