Named one of Time magazine’s most influential people, Art21 artist Kara Walker creates art about the exchange of power and attempts to withhold power from others. As an African American woman who was raised in the South, Walker is keenly aware of the paradoxes of race in contemporary society. In response, she has made slavery and its ongoing impact the primary subject of her critique of power, freely mingling romance for the antebellum era with slavery’s bitter realities. Her characters are realized as silhouettes that unwittingly enact her invented tales of plantation life. Intentionally non-linear storytelling and beautifully rendered figures turn viewers’ expectations on end in this exhibition.
Featuring 60 works drawn from the collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, the exhibition includes wall paintings, works on paper, and recent work in new media. All showcase the artist’s thought-provoking approach to graphic design and content. Her use of the silhouette is especially novel, deployed in ways that confront how we shape personal identity but flatten the complex nature of others. Influenced by historical research, literary sources, and popular culture, Walker’s humor and wit come forth in unexpected juxtapositions. As race remains one of the most difficult conversations to have in America, this exhibition is especially timely amid the discourse on race today, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Exhibition support provided by Emily Leff & James L. Davis III