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Christian Walker: The Profane and the Poignant

About the Exhibition


Jan 24 – Apr 21

Opening Reception

Feb. 1


SMFA at Tufts, 230 Fenway, Boston

Christian Walker: The Profane and the Poignant  surveys the work of artist, critic, and curator Christian Walker (1953–2003). A 1984 graduate of the SMFA, Walker was a path-making gay Black photographer active in Boston and Atlanta. Walker made compelling and experimental work about queer sexuality, race, and their intersections from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. In the mid-1980s, his artistic practice shifted from documentary photography and portraiture to alternative photographic processes involving multiple exposures, archival appropriation, and the integration of paint and nontraditional materials. Walker’s artworks, criticism, and exhibition-making addressed myriad subjects including queer public sex, interracial intimacy, HIV/AIDS, censorship, drug use, and Blackness and whiteness in public and private image cultures.

Contextualizing Walker within his artistic and activist communities in Boston and Atlanta, this exhibition brings together his photographs, critical writings, and curatorial projects for the first time. The exhibition is organized by the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York City and travels to the Tufts University Art Galleries at SMFA / Boston. At TUAG, the exhibition is co-curated by independent curator Jackson Davidow, PhD, and Associate Curator and Exhibitions Manager at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, Noam Parness, in partnership with TUAG Curator and Director of the Collective Futures Fund Laurel V. McLaughlin.

About the artist

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Christian Walker (1953–2003) moved to Boston in 1974, at which point he began making photographs. After obtaining a Fine Arts Diploma from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) in 1984, he moved to Atlanta, where he published his photo book The Theater Project (Nexus Press, 1985). Walker’s work was featured in numerous influential exhibitions in the 1980s and 1990s, including Southern Expressions: A Sense of Self (1988), Black Photographers Bear Witness: 100 Years of Social Protest (1989), The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s (1990), Christian Walker—Subject/Object: Photographs 1980–1990 (1992), Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (1994), and Imagining Families: Images and Voices (1994), among others. His work is in the collections of The Studio Museum in Harlem, The High Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Georgia, the Center for Creative Photography, the ONE Archives, and the Hammonds House Museum. His writing appeared in Fag Rag, ART PAPERS, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SF Camerawork, and the book Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography (1994, ed. Deborah Willis). Walker, along with Cindy Patton, curated Against The Tide: Art in the Age of AIDS and Censorship at Nexus Contemporary Arts Center (1990).

Image: Christian Walker, from The “Theater Project,” 1983–4. Gelatin silver print. 11 x14 in.