Kenyon College
 

Untitled

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Kara Walker maleFigureWalker,Kara-WomanFiguresHIGH Kara Walker
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Kara Walker (b. 1969)

Untitled. 1994.

Cut-paper on gessoed canvas.

10 x 10 inches.

Courtesy of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz.

 

Untitled. 1994.

Cut-paper on gessoed canvas.

10 x 10 inches.

Courtesy of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz.

 

In her black cut-paper silhouettes, Kara Walker uses a decorative, and bourgeois, 18th century French technique to create a chilling narrative of race in America. Walker’s exaggerated figureheads, which reference the derogatory aesthetic of antebellum minstrel shows, disrupt the viewer’s sense of historical and contemporary race relations. The pieces here are alarmingly violent: a man is carried by a stick up his rectum; a woman in a hoop skirt, a fashion donned by mistresses and slave women in the pre-Civil War south, holds a child upside down as the youngster vomits into the hand of a young girl. While the silhouette is often a trivial medium that turns a person or attitude into a caricature, these pieces are at once disturbing, absurdist and utterly disarming. As Walker herself says of the cut-paper medium, “The black silhouette just happened to suit my needs very well. I often compare my method of working to that of a well-meaning freed woman in a Northern state who is attempting to delineate the horrors of Southern slavery but with next to no resources, other than some paper and a pen knife and some people she’d like to kill.”

 

Kara Walker, a 1997 recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant, holds a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Presently, Walker is a faculty member at Columbia University’s MFA program.

 

Caleb Bissinger ’13

Gund Gallery Associate

 
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