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An Overdue Debut
Savannah folk artist's posthumous show a winner

by Catherine Fox
For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Robert Lindsey Walker

Through June 30. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Price range: $250-$2,850. Barbara Archer Gallery, 1123 Zonolite Road N.E., Suite 27. 404-815-1545.

The verdict: Endearing.

Despite the efforts of dealers of self-taught art, the field has suffered for some time from a dearth of new talent. That makes the first one-man show of the late Robert Lindsey Walker cause for cheer.

Walker isn't new in the sense of being young; rather, the Savannah artist is new in the sense of being recently discovered. Like so many self-taught artists, he didn't take up art-making until after he retired from his job, as a stonecutter in the late 1960s. While working odd jobs such as yardwork, Walker collected pens, markers and all sorts of paper -- file folders, calendars -- that he used to make drawings in the 1970s and '80s.

It appears that no one was aware of the extent of this work until it was discovered after his death in 1996, stored in his garage. Only a few of the works had been sold by the time Atlanta dealer Barbara Archer purchased the whole lot in January 2000. This is, for all intents and purposes, the artist's posthumous debut.

Walker liked to draw the boats he saw in the Savannah harbor. He appears to have had a fondness for Greyhound buses, which he carefully rendered down to the dog logo on the side. There are drawings of Savannah parks and squares. But his true calling lay in his imaginative renderings of domestic architecture.

Houses, houses, houses. Drawn carefully with a ruler, limned in bright colors, often decorated with fanciful patterns. Seductive as the surfaces are, the real distinction in these pictures is the artist's exposition of space. It is as if he took a dollhouse, collapsed it flat and drew the exterior and interior all on one flattened plane. You see the facade and the rooms inside, filled with floating furniture, all at once. It's a disconcerting, entertaining view.

In one image of a brick home, blue steps lead to a purple door enlivened with an arabesque design. Inside a plane of red (which further flattens the space) are mirror, chair, vases and whatnot. The roof is decorated with a diamond filled with colored stripes.

Walker appears to have happily mingled his observations with his flights of fancy. In perhaps the strangest piece, a pink house is bifurcated by a large cylindrical structure with a ramp. That the colors have faded adds to its strangeness and allure.

Walker is not a visionary like J.B. Murray. He does not burn with social consciousness like Thornton Dial. Howard Finster's architectural visions are more fantastical; Achilles Rizzoli's are more anatomically correct, so to speak. But in a humbler, homier way, Walker established his own mode of self-expression, and the work is a delight to discover.

It's a first. The initial one-man show for the late Robert Lindsey Walker at Barbara Archer Gallery displays the endearing work of a winning self-taught artist. He mingled observations with his flights of fancy, creating drawings of houses, houses and more houses.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 1, 2001, Page Q8