Press Release  December 18, 2020

Walker Art Center Acquires New Works From Minnesota-Based Artists

walker art center

Julie Buffalohead, The Garden, 2017. Acrylic, ink, graphite, chalk pencil, collage on paper. 30 x 78 1/2 in. Julie and Babe Davis Acquisition Fund, 2018.

The Walker Art Center has acquired 39 new works, deepening its commitment to Minnesota artists. Among the most recent works acquired is a three-part painting, made in the summer of 2020, by St. Paul–based artist Ta-coumba T. Aiken (US, b. 1952). Aiken, whose works of public art often center social justice and the building of community, has a long and distinguished career as an artist, educator, and artistic collaborator. During the pandemic, Aiken had returned to an intensive studio practice, re-engaging more fully with painting, drawing, and collage. Following the murder of George Floyd, he began working on a group of large paintings and drawings informed by the events. A group of three paintings entitled NO WORDS recently entered the Walker’s collection and is on display in the collection-based exhibition Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection. The canvases are covered with Aiken’s signature rhythmic abstract marks, but also include groups of human faces gathered into what he has referred to as “thought bubbles.” Aiken considers these works “a call to action,” and in speaking about the title of these works, notes, “’No Words’ is not the inability to talk, but the disbelief that you need to say anything else.”

walker art center

Dyani White Hawk, Wókaǧe | Create from the Takes Care of Them suite, 2019. Screenprint, copper foil on paper. 32 x 55 ½ in. Gift of Jody and Mike Wahlig, 2020.

Since arriving at the Walker in late 2018, Executive Director Mary Ceruti has committed to serving artists from Minnesota, outlining this in her first months as an institutional priority in her interim strategic plan. “I’m interested in the very unique place the Walker sits within the larger arts ecosystem in Minnesota,” Ceruti notes, “In addition to our work with artists nationally and internationally, I see our involvement in and support of the Minnesota artist community as absolutely central to our vitality as an institution, and key to the way we engage with and serve our many audiences.”

Since her arrival, Ceruti and her curatorial team have acquired a significant number of works by Minnesota artists. Thirty-nine works by artists currently or formerly based in Minnesota have entered the collection since her arrival. These works are by a diverse and multigenerational range of practitioners, including Aiken, Siah Armajani, Frank Big Bear, Julie Buffalohead, James Byrne, Andrea Carlson, Rosemary Soyini Vinelle Guyton, Jay Heikes, Pao Hua Her, Seitu Jones, Caroline Kent, Stuart Klipper, Chris Larson, Teo Nguyen, Stuart Neilson, Rowan Pope, Aaron Spangler, Dyani White Hawk, and Tetsuya Yamada.

The works acquired encompass a broad range of media, including paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and multimedia installations. These include a grouping of new photographs by Pao Houa Her (US, b. Laos, 1982) that show the interplay between the cultures and landscapes of St. Paul and Laos; Everyday City (2006), a major sculptural installation by Tetsuya Yamada (US, b. Japan, 1968) made from 800 ceramic vessels; Takes Care of Them (Wówahokuŋkiya | Lead, Wókaǧe | Create, Nakíčižiŋ | Protect and Wačháŋtognaka | Nurture; 2019), a suite of recent prints by Dyani White Hawk (Sičangu Lakota, b. 1976) made at Minneapolis-based Highpoint Center for Printmaking and based on ceremonial Lakota dresses; Land Speed Record (2016), a room-scaled installation by Chris Larson (US, b. 1966) inspired by the history of storied Minneapolis music venue First Avenue; and several important early works by Siah Armajani (US, b. Iran, 1939–2020), who passed away this year, and whose retrospective Siah Armajani: Follow This Line was co-organized and presented by the Walker in 2018.

Other new works are commissions for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Shadows at the Crossroads, a collaboration between Ta-coumba T. Aiken, Rosemary Soyini Vinelle Guyton, and Seitu Jones, features silhouettes of important figures from Minnesota history and was installed in June 2019. Okciyapi (Help Each Other), an upcoming commission by Twin Cities–based artist Angela Two Stars (Dakota, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, b. 1982), is scheduled to be installed in 2021.

The Walker has collected and exhibited Minnesota artists since its beginnings, and Ceruti considers this an important thread in the Walker’s ongoing acquisitions and exhibitions programs. The Walker’s current installation of its permanent collection, for example, includes nine works by Minnesota artists. Ceruti, along with Chief Curator and Director of Cultural Affairs Henriette Huldisch, has articulated the Walker’s engagement with Minnesota-based artists ­­as a renewed priority. “Connecting the artists of Minnesota with peers from around the globe and establishing international context for these artists is central to our mission,” Ceruti notes.

walker art center

Ta-coumba T. Aiken, NO WORDS, 2020 (installation view in the Walker exhibition Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection). Acrylic on canvas. 3 panels: 78 x 96 in. each. Anonymous gift, in memory of George Floyd (10/14/1973-5/25/2020). May the wrongs committed against the Communities of Color and Indigenous peoples of Minnesota never be lost to history, 2020.

Ceruti recently announced an initiative specifically focused on support of artists from Minnesota in which the Walker has committed to diverting $120,000 of its acquisitions funds this year to support Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) artists working in all disciplines. The initiative came about amid the process of institutional reckoning following the murder of George Floyd and in response to the compounding public health and economic crises due to COVID-19 that continue to disproportionately impact communities of color. The Walker is partnering with 10 Twin Cities-based BIPOC arts organizations, who will each select two artists to receive individual grants in the amount of $5,000. Grant recipients can use the funds to support their artistic practices or for any other financial needs; no post-grant report will be required. Each partner organization will also receive $2,000 as compensation for their expertise, time and labor. “This is one concrete action the Walker can take to support artists in our community in this unprecedented moment,” says Huldisch, “We are committed to creating space for more sustained dialogue and deeper partnerships within the Twin Cities and we see this as one of many steps to further this effort.”

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