Christian Walker

Christian Walker, From The Theater Project, 1983-4, Gelatin silver print, 11”x14” [courtesy of the David VanHoy Collection and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, NY]

Active in Boston and Atlanta from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Christian Walker was a path-making Black gay artist, critic, and curator whose work addressed queer sexuality, race, and their intersections. Persistent themes across his myriad projects included queer public sex, interracial intimacy, HIV/AIDS, censorship, drug use, and Blackness and whiteness in public and private image cultures.

Born in 1953 in Springfield, MA, Walker moved in 1974 to Boston, where he developed a practice of documentary photography and portraiture, and contributed photographs and writings to such gay liberation publications as Fag Rag and Gay Community News. With his move to Atlanta in the mid-1980s, his artistic practice shifted toward alternative photographic processes involving multiple exposures, archival appropriation, and the integration of paint and nontraditional materials. One reason he moved to Atlanta was the opportunity to publish his 1985 photo book The Theater Project with Nexus Press. During his decade in Atlanta, Walker also regularly wrote art criticism forThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution andART PAPERS. For the latter, he interviewed many fellow artists, including Ellen Banks, Richard Hunt, Mary Ellen Mark, and Andres Serrano. With Cindy Patton, Walker also co-curated a major exhibition, Against the Tide: The Homoerotic Image in the Age of Censorship and AIDS, at Nexus Gallery and TULA in 1990. Sometime between 1996 and 1998, Walker moved to Seattle, where he died in 2003. Although Walker received significant critical and curatorial attention during his lifetime, his work has largely gone unrecognized since his death.

In fall 2023, the exhibition Christian Walker: The Profane and the Poignant opened at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York, where it originated. It is on view until April 21, 2024, at Tufts University Art Galleries in Boston. The first and most comprehensive account of Walker’s artistic and cultural production to date, the exhibition situates his photographs, critical writings, and curatorial projects as vital contributions to the histories of art and photography. In recognition of ART PAPERS’ significance for Walker during his time in Atlanta, this archival spotlight assembles a selection of his interviews and texts that appeared in the publication from 1989 to 1992.

— Jackson Davidow & Noam Parness