An unprecedented collaboration between St. Louis-area teens and acclaimed multidisciplinary artist Kelley Walker, Schema is organized by the 2016 class of Teen Museum Studies, CAM’s career exploration program. Serving as an extension of the Museum’s upcoming comprehensive examination of Walker’s work—Direct Drive, which opens September 16—Schema presents examples from several of the artist’s most iconic series. Held each summer, Teen Museum Studies offers a select group of high school students the opportunity to learn from CAM staff members in all departments and culminates in the teens organizing an exhibition from start to finish.
Throughout his career, Kelley Walker has explored the manipulation and repurposing of images in order to destabilize issues of identity, race, class, sexuality, and politics. In an era of digital reproduction, the artist’s work draws attention to popular culture’s perpetual consumption and reuse of images. Walker confronts audiences with important questions of social responsibility and systemic complacency, often bringing 1960s imagery into today’s charged social and political context.
For Schema, the walls of CAM’s Education Gallery are completely covered by digitally printed vinyl. Each wall features enlarged photographs of Civil Rights protests overlaid with scanned Crest and Aquafresh whitening toothpaste. The toothpaste overlay simultaneously draws our attention to areas of violence and alludes to the gestural brushstrokes and drips of the Abstract Expressionists. The scale of the reproductions envelopes the audience, making us feel part of the scene and situating us within a historic, yet ongoing, American narrative.
Adjacent, a battered vintage Volkswagen Bug windshield—shattered on-site by the Teen Museum Studies students—can be understood as a reference to current society. Outside the Education Gallery, a wall depicts repeated images of bricks, reminiscent of the surrounding architecture, tying the exhibition to our urban landscape. The students collectively view Schema as a space for protest, part of a larger nationwide discussion about oppression, and an investigation into how artists can shed light on the topic in order to call for positive change.
Kelley Walker: Schema is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Teen Museum Studies students Anna Brackett, Dylan Sparks-Bostic, Jilian Danto, Madi Goetzke, Crista Hatcher, Oliver Kanak, Sasha Mothershead, Marcus Polk, Michael Ross, Andrea Skrobic, Violet Stopp, and Gordon Stuvland.