The Walker Art Center presents “Archaeology of the Present“, a fascinating exhibition by Kahlil Robert Irving about the present world in which we live, yet which abounds in physical remains that count a fragmented history over time. Like an archaeologist, the contemporary artist uses his unique sculptural art to search for evidence of our own contemporary artifacts.
Kahlil Robert Irving, born in 1992 in the United States, now lives in St. Louis, where he creates a variety of assemblages based on a superimposition of images and sculpture composed of replicas of everyday objects. This contemporary artist takes a critical approach to the expression of his art, questioning the foundations of culture and identity in the Western world.
Working mainly in ceramics, his sculptures ingest images and objects that are, for the most part, under-appreciated, yet nevertheless representative of a way of life, a historical moment or even references specific to individuals. Using an arduous reheating technique, Kahlil Robert Irving achieves layers of complex design from objects initially perceived as detritus to create sculptures that are as engaging as they are storytelling.
Closer to archaeology, Kahlil Robert Irving’s work analyzes memory, race and the lives of black women, integrating them as subjects for his ceramic sculptures, made visible in prints and wallpaper. The exhibition “Archaeology of the Present” is a composition of new works (sculptures, videos) and finds by the artist that together identify our relationship with the street as a place and a concept.
The artist installs his sculptures and other exhibition objects on a plywood platform comparable to a stage. This original construction allows visitors to move through a frame of reference dedicated to the exploration of his archaeological art. In so doing, he highlights his works and the implicit relationship between a work of art and manufactured objects, which he identifies as “the tacit, liminal gaps between life and poetry“.
The exhibition platform itself represents a symbolic work of art, enabling viewers to perceive the installation and the meaning of the works on display with different eyes. Through the “Archaeology of the Present” exhibition, Kahlil Robert Irving encourages visitors to interact with his creations and modulates their perceptions of the street and the environment as a whole towards a changing, updated vision.