Mass Live's Chris Dondoros interviews art collector and philanthropist Jordan D. Schnitzer to talk about the University of Massachusetts' "Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker's Tales of Slavery and Power," on view now from Feb. 2 through April 30. Schnitzer says that visitors to the show "should be ready to be challenged, distressed and exhilarated all at once."
According to Schnitzer, a Portland, Oregon-based art collector whose personal collection and collection of the Jordan D. Schnitzer Family Foundation total more than 10,000 prints and multiples, Walker's work across various mediums - from lithography to silhouette work - paints a powerful image in the mind of the viewer regardless of their familiarity with different types of art.
"The reason why this work is so universal and critical today is because although Kara Walker is using themes from a certain time period, the great divide in this country still exists. I think Walker's 'Emancipation Approximation' series is one of the most important works of art in our time. It captures your mind and you're surrounded by a presence in bigotry and stereotyping and our base instincts," he said.
Schnitzer said viewers could expect Walker's silhouette work in particular to juxtapose familiar images and themes against an undercurrent of social commentary that encourages viewers to question their own beliefs regarding race and gender equality.
"She forces you to think things you would not have thought if she didn't manipulate the work in the way she did. Aside from race relations, the issues here of gender inequality are so powerfully presented. And I think out of the exhibition, at least for me, it's inspirational," said Schnitzer.
"We can't be better unless we deal with our values. The fact is, all of us, it is easy to end up reacting and stereotyping people and coming to conclusions. It's a human issue and we all do it. It isn't great, but it's real. How do we rise above that?"
"Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker's Tales of Slavery and Power" will run at the University Museum of Contemporary Art, located at 151 Presidents Drive in Amherst from Feb. 2 through April 30.