Jack Walls (painting)

Chicago-born artist Jack Walls has been a vital part of the New York art world for over 30 years. While his visual artwork primarily focuses on painting and collage, Mr. Walls is a writer, poet and performer. In his early years in New York, he met and lived as a couple with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. This relationship lasted until Mapplethorpe’s untimely death in 1989. Since then, Walls has become a source of inspiration for a new generation of young artists. Ryan McGinley, Dan Colen, and the late Dash Snow, to mention a few, have acknowledged Walls’ influence. Jack Walls lives and works in Hudson, New York.

Painter and poet Jack Walls is considered an ‘inside outsider’ when it comes to his own art making. Working across all mediums including drawing, photo collage, poetry and painting, each work is discovered via Mr. Walls’ personal patterns and discipline. Successful themes are repeated and refashioned as he navigates from one series to the next. The overall effect culminates into a narrative that is at once cohesive while punctuating his personal style.

“HEADS”, a color series of cubist heads inspired by a collection of African carvings debuted at Glenn Horowitz Gallery in New York City in 2014 and later at the Basilica in Hudson, NY. With approximately 75 paintings in the series, Mr. Walls has moved on, but the core theme lives on. A new series, “NEGATIVES”, is a reductive revision of these inspired heads. Surfaces are stitched together from bits and pieces of canvas before gessoed and painted in black and white. The heads themselves have become more abstracted and gestural in nature, retaining primitive characteristics such as crooked lips and off-centered eyes.

Photo of Jack Walls (painting)


Negatives Series - Large Unstitched

Negative Series - Medium Stitched

Negative Series - Small Stitched Canvas


ADA Collages

ADA is the title of a photograph Robert Mapplethorpe took of one of Jack Walls' friends. It is a striking portrait; beautiful, mysterious and unyielding.

Jack Walls remakes this single Mapplethorpe photograph into ninety-three ADA variations. Each collage is a beautiful composition on its own, but in the aggregate the collages have power as a meditation on how we look. The pieces are about altering perception using an existing artwork as a starting point.

These collages don't work through jarring juxtaposition but through repetition and variation. The same beige-colored newsprint peeking through, the same image, the same size. But in each one the photograph is reworked, reshaped, remade. The effect is complicated. The repetition makes you study the image more closely: a body part isolated or repeated, a curve doubled or tripled. The body is reordered. The shapes are precision cut, emphasizing the beauty of the classic composition in the original. In some the shapes are little circles, like peepholes you can glimpse ADA through. In others it looks as though Walls has splintered the photograph into fragments. There is a symmetry and pattern in the splintering, almost a kaleidoscopic view. Other times the thin slices make the image look watery or blurry. There is real wit in the creative variations.

These collages celebrate but also appropriate the original work; they make you look hard at the original photograph and also make it disappear. It becomes nearly unrecognizable in some of the collages-the cuts and shapes are what you start to notice, not the photograph itself.

Walls' ADAs works in both ways: to enlarge, examine and reanimate the Mapplethorpe photograph and to use it as one element in wholly new art. The fascinating and complicated use of the image is magnified by Walls' intimacy with Mapplethorpe. In these works Walls acknowledges it, celebrates it and moves onto his own artistic space from it.

-Dana Spiotta