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Kara Walker, Kevin Moses, Hedy Klineman and Thelma Golden at a celebration for "The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company"
Photo by George Hirose for
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by Charlie Finch

In this week’s New Yorker, Hilton Als offers a boilerplate summary of the controversy surrounding the transgressive, antebellum-inspired silhouettes of Kara Walker, whose traveling retrospective opens at the Whitney Museum next week. Framed by descriptions of the more lurid of Walker’s tropes (a baby pierced by a sword, a black man fellating himself), Als’ argument summarizes a familiar discussion going back to Richard Wright’s murderer Bigger Thomas in Native Son: does the fruit of Walker’s driven id justify itself as critique, or should it be censored as demeaning the dignity of African-Americans?