Kelley Walker (b. 1969)
gold leaf on laser cut steel
58in. (147.3cm.) diameter
Executed in 2006
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, USA.

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Lot Essay

'When I made the recycling signs, I took the sign off a cereal box, enlarged it on the computer, and had it digitally laser cut out of steel. I then made a couple of different skins to cover the signs... Applying these skins allowed the sign to be marked out and/or packaged, and in doing this the signs could then begin to operate in a way that interested me - as a kind of naturalised logo that I could work with and respond to. I wasn't thinking of literally recycling when I lifted the sign from the cereal box' (Kelley Walker, quoted in K. Walker & R. Nickas, 'Support Failure', pp. 71-78, Kelley Walker, exh. cat., Grenoble & Brussels, 2007, pp. 74-75).

Executed in 2006, Untitled shows one of American artist Kelley Walker's most recognised themes: the recycling symbol. Here, it has been scanned, enlarged, cut in steel and then covered in gold leaf. The flat print sign has become a three-dimensional artefact, that three-dimensionality highlighted by the holes of the arrows, which allow light to pierce it.

Kelley's Untitled plays a number of conceptual games with the viewer. Like Roy Lichtenstein's sculptures, it introduces a tension between the two-dimensionality of its source and the threedimensionality of sculpture. This is enhanced by the arrows, which essentially double as taunting 'THIS WAY UP' signs: the disc can be turned and turned and still the arrows will be pointing in roughly the same directions. Which way is up?

At the same time, Walker is playing with the entire idea of recycling. After all, he has here recycled the recycling symbol, granting it mass and form and placing it in a new context in a process that echoes the knowing appropriation that runs through his work, be it in his Black Star Press images, the pictures based on magazine covers or those showing old Braniff ads. Meanwhile, with the customary and irreverent humour that underpins so much of Walkers work, in Untitled, the medium and the message are at stark odds. By creating this large sculpture out of steel and coating it in gold, he deliberately undermines the message enshrined in its very surface, cynically highlighting the irrelevance of art in the modern world as a means of bettering our environment and thereby pointing an accusatory yet mocking finger at the excesses of the art world.

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