Kara Walker
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Presented courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

Kara Walker: Talking About Andy Lecture Series
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, January 11, 7pm


The candor with which Ms. Walker has explored America's seemingly insoluble knot of race, gender and sexuality can seem shockingly impartial. Her art plays no favorites; it openly courts political incorrectness similarly to the work of Sue Williams, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Vanessa Beecroft and the newcomer Tamy Ben-Tor. That she is an African-American woman seems to be the last thing on her mind: one of her central messages is that slavery visited degradation equally on all concerned and that its tragic legacy poisons life for all Americans.

Ms. Walker's artistic means are ingeniously apt to her assumption that the past is still with us. She came across the cut-paper medium while studying art at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1990's. She first expanded the medium into an ephemeral, twisted, thoroughly original form of installation art, and then pursued its implications in drawings, gouaches, magic-lantern projections and puppet-show videos. (Her wide range is also evident in her show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in Chelsea through April 1. It contains her latest video and a suite of small silhouette collages notable for using cut-outs in various colors.)

Ms. Walker's art is richly graphic in all senses of the word. Her stark black-on-white narratives — which render all people black, by the way — have persistently conjured up the antebellum South as an absurdist sideshow, where encounters between the races tended toward the grotesque: variously violent, sexual, scatological or bestial. Her installations in particular cast the figures as nearly life-size, and in our own time and space, like demonic memories that refuse to be suppressed. Her vignettes shift between the metaphorical and the credible, but manage to retain an engaging realism of gesture and expression.

Roberta Smith, The New York Times.
‘Kara Walker Makes Contrasts in Silhouette in Her Own Met Show', March 24th, 2006.