Current Perspectives – Hamza Walker
March 16 @ 11:45 am - 12:45 pm
Hamza Walker‘s interests in issues of representation and art’s potential in the urban realm make him an ideal commentator on Robin Rhode’s work. Since 1994, he has served as director of education for the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, a noncollecting museum devoted to contemporary art. The recipient of a Curator’s Grant from the Peter Norton Family Foundation in 1999, Walker also teaches painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He previously worked as a public art coordinator for Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Walker is currently on the boards of Noon, an annual publication of short fiction, and Lampo, a nonprofit presenter of new and experimental music; he also served on the board of Randolph Street Gallery for several years before its closing. He has written articles and reviews for such publications as Trans, Parkett, and Artforum and he has participated in numerous panels, locally, nationally, and internationally. Walker was one of the jurors for the Wexner Center’s State Fare exhibition in 2007.
Hamza Walker articulated a very complete explanation of the way that patronage ties into the larger cultural ecology of a city, from its cultural offerings (counting both fringe and mainstream or entertainment culture) to the impact of its institutions (including DIY spaces, museums and schools). Walker had a very interesting point to make about DIY spaces, which he posited are different now from the artist-run DIY spaces of the 1970s. While they were founded to provide an alternative to commercial galleries, a shift in the 1980s led to the rise of the present type of DIY space, which Walker claimed is simply a commercial gallery without money. He asserted that many of today’s DIY spaces would be commercial if they had more money pumped into them.
Walker also had an important point to make about the hype surrounding the concept of “emerging artists,” a frenzy that can be seen everywhere. Walker put it bluntly: “Does emerging artists mean emerging art?” The concept of emerging artist isn’t in itself a bad notion, but needs to be considered in terms of the question of how these emerging artists can sustain their practice and mature beyond emerging. As Walker pointed out, the schism between the label of “emerging” and the actual substance of the work needs to be addressed.
Since October, Hamza is the Executive Director of LAXART, an independent nonprofit art space presenting experimental exhibitions and public art initiatives.