Bill Walton at JTT – Artforum International


Sculptor Bill Walton (1931–2010) was a master of subtle deception. What initially looks like wood might actually be copper, lead, or iron. In his exhibition here, “from bits and pieces / from lots of places / from different spots in time,” you never really know what it is you’re looking at until you’re inches away from the thing. Functioning loosely as portraits, the components of Walton’s artworks are fastidiously arranged into small-scale assemblages and spread out on a low, white pedestal, like a tray of Minimalist canapés presented for our pleasure.

1/4 Turn (Split) (all works undated) looks simply as though it were constructed from two wooden planks: one flipped on its side, the other laid flat. Yet their exposed edges are coated in delicate layers of white pigment and wax, producing an uncanny sheen. In a piece from the artist’s “Wisteria Series,” a gnarled chunk of the namesake tree is precariously balanced atop three stacked slabs of wood—although one of them is really copper, expertly camouflaged. Connecting a pair of branches in another “Wisteria Series” sculpture, one of which is Y-shaped like an old-fashioned slingshot, is what appears to be a thick, twisted rubbery band—an element actually crafted from lead.

While Walton’s art might seem austere, it’s never cold, as the work was created by a thoughtful hand and a sentimental heart. See the sprawl of fabric weighed down by a concrete brick, a piece from the series “Sweet Lou & Marie (#4 – Blue Shirt),” titled after a couple he was friends with. Or the various wisteria pieces, all of which were made from a tree that grew in the yard of Walton’s second wife. Surprisingly tender, these works are like memorials to people and places in time. While they may vanish, the memories of them will not.

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