Frank Walter in his studio in St. John’s, Antigua, n.d. (c. 1975)

By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter

Curated by Hilton Als


David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of work by Antiguan artist, writer, and polymath Frank Walter (1926–2009) at the gallery’s East 69th Street location in New York, curated by Hilton Als.

This focused exhibition follows the solo show of Walter’s work presented at David Zwirner London in 2021 as well as the celebrated retrospectives held at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, in 2020 and the Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. Organized in collaboration with the artist’s family, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter will center on Walter’s relationship to Antigua through a range of works that express his intimate connection to nature, landscape, and place.

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Image: Frank Walter in his studio in St. John’s, Antigua, n.d. (c. 1975). © Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts.

Dates
June 2July 29, 2022
Artist
Frank Walter

Curated by Hilton Als and organized in collaboration with the artist’s family and art historian Barbara Paca, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter explores Walter’s relationship to Antigua through a range of works—from vividly colored landscapes, to formally inventive and probing portraits, to abstract compositions—that express his intimate connection to nature, landscape, and place.

Frank Walter (1926–2009) was born and raised in Horsford Hill, Antigua, and had a deep connection to his native land from an early age. After studying agriculture and the sugar industry, Walter spent much of the 1950s traveling in England, Scotland, and West Germany to learn advanced agricultural and industrial techniques. He returned to the Caribbean in 1961, where, in addition to painting, drawing, and writing, he began making sculptures, photographs, and sound recordings. Over the course of several decades, Walter created a prolific body of work, making art inspired by his thoughts, knowledge, journeys, and surroundings.

A detail from an untitled painting also known as Storm in Blue Sky by Frank Walter, n.d.

Frank Walter, Untitled (Storm in Blue Sky), n.d. (detail)

Frank Walter, Untitled (Storm in Blue Sky), n.d. (detail)

As Als notes, “Producing art became his solace.… Walter returned to his native land armed with experiences he’d learned outside it, the better to understand what had made him—and what he could make of his origins, the territory that fed his imagination.”

A painting on Polaroid film cartridge box by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Storm in Blue Sky), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Storm in Blue Sky), n.d.
Oil on Polaroid film cartridge box
3 7/8 x 3 1/8 inches (9.8 x 7.9 cm)
Framed: 8 3/4 x 8 inches (22.2 x 20.3 cm)
A photograph of Frank Walter’s home and studio on Bailey Hill in Antigua, dated 2022.

In the early 1990s, Frank Walter designed and built his home and studio on Bailey Hill in Antigua, where he spent the remainder of his time in relative isolation, reflecting, writing, and making art. The studio is captured here as it stands in the present day.

In the early 1990s, Frank Walter designed and built his home and studio on Bailey Hill in Antigua, where he spent the remainder of his time in relative isolation, reflecting, writing, and making art. The studio is captured here as it stands in the present day.

A photograph of the view from Walter’s studio, dated 2022.

The view from Walter’s studio, 2022

The view from Walter’s studio, 2022

“Walter’s vast, near Homeric take on his external, verdant universe is a lesson in how and why we look at place, and in the development of a sensibility within it,” writes Als. “Walter … saw landscapes and water and sky and birds for what they were—natural elements of grace, and the wellspring of the naturalist and artist’s ever evolving joy, creativity, and inspiration.”

An oil on card artwork by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Pinkish-Red-And-Grey Tree), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Pinkish-Red-And-Grey Tree), n.d.
Oil on card
9 x 7 7/8 inches (22.8 x 20.1 cm)
Framed: 13 3/4 x 12 7/8 inches (34.9 x 32.7 cm)

Als first encountered Walter’s work at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where much of the art world at large discovered his distinctive visual style. Below, Als recalls the experience in excerpts from an essay written on the occasion of this exhibition.

Installation view of the exhibition Frank Walter: The Last Universal Man (1926–2009) at the Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda during Biennale Arte 2017 in Venice.

Installation view, Frank Walter: The Last Universal Man (1926–2009), Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda, Biennale Arte 2017, Venice. © Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts. Courtesy Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts and David Zwirner

Installation view, Frank Walter: The Last Universal Man (1926–2009), Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda, Biennale Arte 2017, Venice. © Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts. Courtesy Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts and David Zwirner

“[On] that spring day in Venice [in 2017] when I arrived at the Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda … it was as if my eyes and my heart recognized [Walter] at once.” 

A photograph of Frank Walter in his studio on Market Street in St. John’s, Antigua, dated 1987.

Walter in his studio on Market Street, St. John’s, Antigua, c. 1987 (detail). © Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts. Courtesy Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts and David Zwirner

Walter in his studio on Market Street, St. John’s, Antigua, c. 1987 (detail). © Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts. Courtesy Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts and David Zwirner

A photograph of artwork and material from the Walter family archive, dated 2022.

Artwork and material from the Walter family archive, 2022

Artwork and material from the Walter family archive, 2022

An oil on single-ply cardboard artwork by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Red Hibiscus Flower), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Red Hibiscus Flower), n.d.
Oil on single-ply cardboard
8 3/8 x 4 7/8 inches (21.4 x 12.5 cm)
Framed: 13 3/8 x 10 1/8 inches (34 x 25.7 cm)

“Not only as a master artist, but as a maker of a universe completely his own, grown out of the richness and debris that sometimes characterizes the life of a West Indian island dweller who is not rich, who must make a world out of making do. It seemed to me, that afternoon … that Walter did everything and wanted to do everything.”

A painting on single-ply cardboard by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Scottish Tree), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Scottish Tree), n.d.
Oil on single-ply cardboard
6 1/2 x 4 inches (16.5 x 10 cm)
Framed: 11 3/8 x 8 3/4 inches (28.9 x 22.2 cm)
A paint on cardstock artwork by Frank Walter, titled Untitled (Heart Stencil), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Heart Stencil), n.d.
Paint on cardstock
5 x 7 3/8 inches (12.7 x 18.7 cm)
Framed: 12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches (31.1 x 24.8 cm)
A pencil on cardstock artwork by Frank Walter, titled Untitled (Woman in a Mini Dress), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Woman in a Mini Dress), n.d.
Pencil on cardstock
9 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches (23.5 x 14 cm)
Framed: 14 x 10 3/8 inches (35.6 x 26.4 cm)

“Looking at his paintings, none very large, all detailed, was like looking through a scrim at someone else’s dreams. You could see every line, every color, but you had to peer past his poetic resolve not to tell everything, not to reveal all the world, but to show all the world in fragments—a palm tree here, a house there, a dog there, a woman here—because it was truer to what he knew: taking the fragments that life gave him, building on them and making it whole.”

An oil on Polaroid film cartridge box artwork, called Untitled (Two Coconut Palms Night Sky), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Two Coconut Palms Night Sky), n.d.
Oil on Polaroid film cartridge box
3 7/8 x 3 1/8 inches (9.8 x 8 cm)
Framed: 8 3/4 x 8 inches (22.2 x 20.3 cm)
A detail of a painting by Frank Walter, titled Untitled (Two Coconut Palms Night Sky).

Frank Walter, Untitled (Two Coconut Palms Night Sky), n.d. (detail)

Frank Walter, Untitled (Two Coconut Palms Night Sky), n.d. (detail)

“One gets the sense, in looking at Walter’s rivers and sky, that his perspectives were hard-won: he doesn’t just look at a bank and water, he pulls back, rather like a cinematographer—he had a great interest in photography, too—to get at the poetic essence of a scene.”

A painting on single-ply cardboard by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Red Sky, Three Trees), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Red Sky, Three Trees), n.d.
Oil on single-ply cardboard
8 x 4 inches (20.4 x 10.1 cm)
Framed: 12 7/8 x 9 inches (32.7 x 22.9 cm)
An installation view of the exhibition, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2022.

Installation view, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

“The decisive moment that Henri Cartier-Bresson told us about so long ago … remains vibrant in Walter’s work. His art is filled with correct moments, even when the image is obviously a work of the imagination.”

A pencil on pressboard artwork by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Man in Profile), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Man in Profile), n.d.
Pencil on pressboard
6 1/2 x 5 1/4 x inches (16.5 x 13.5 cm)
Framed: 11 1/2 x 10 1/8 inches (29.2 x 25.7 cm)
A painting on single-ply cardboard by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Nocturne with a Tall Burgundy Tree), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Nocturne with a Tall Burgundy Tree), n.d.
Oil on single-ply cardboard
9 3/8 x 6 3/8 inches (23.8 x 16.2 cm)
Framed: 14 1/2 x 11 3/8 inches (36.8 x 28.9 cm)
A painting on single-ply cardboard by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Grey and Red Landscape), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Grey and Red Landscape), n.d.
Oil on single-ply cardboard
17 1/2 x 8 1/8 inches (44.5 x 20.6 cm)
Framed: 13 x 22 3/8 inches (33 x 56.8 cm)

“In a way, the work is all about him, and how he saw in a very particular way the blood and joy of history as it filled his eyes and shaped his hands and mind.”

A painting on back of photograph artwork by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Chartreuse), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Chartreuse), n.d.
Oil on back of photograph
8 1/8 x 10 inches (20.5 x 25.4 cm)
Framed: 12 7/8 x 14 7/8 inches (32.7 x 37.8 cm)

“[His work] is about the articulation of a particular kind of experience: race without ideology, fantasy without apology, the natural world on its own terms as it meets the particularities of the artist’s eye.”

A detail of a postcard Walter collected of Antigua’s landscape.

A postcard Walter collected of Antigua’s landscape (detail). Courtesy the Walter Family Archive

A postcard Walter collected of Antigua’s landscape (detail). Courtesy the Walter Family Archive

“With Frank Walter’s hand leading my own, and his eye layered over the ancient Italian world I was in at that moment, filling it with bent palm trees, rivers, and skies that stopped only because the canvas frame couldn’t take any more of it, any more beauty—but the mind could.… That was what I understood that afternoon in Venice, with Walter: he gives more glory and truth than we think we can bear. And then gives some more as we rush to meet it.”

A painting on back of photographic paper by Frank Walter, called Untitled (Abstract Forest with Black Trunks), n.d.

Frank Walter

Untitled (Abstract Forest with Black Trunks), n.d.
Oil on back of photographic paper
7 7/8 x 9 7/8 inches (20 x 25 cm)
Framed: 12 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches (32.4 x 37.5 cm)
An installation view of the exhibition, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2022.

Installation view, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, By Land, Air, Home, and Sea: The World of Frank Walter, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Learn more about Walter’s life and art at frankwalter.org, where you can watch a new short film by Thomas Freund.

A still from a video by Thomas Freund depicting a view of the sea in Antigua, dated 2022.

A view of the sea in Antigua, 2022. A still from a video by Thomas Freund

A view of the sea in Antigua, 2022. A still from a video by Thomas Freund

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