Cut, Cut paper and adhesive on wall, Brent Sikkema NYC.
November 26, 1969 |
Stockton, California, U.S.
|Training||Rhode Island School of Design|
Kara Walker (born November 26, 1969) is a contemporary African American artist who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes.
“One of my earliest memories involves sitting on my dad’s lap in his studio in the garage of our house and watching him draw. I remember thinking: ‘I want to do that, too,’ and I pretty much decided then and there at age 2½ or 3 that I was an artist just like Dad.” —Kara Walker
Kara Walker moved to the south at the age of 13 when her father accepted a position at Georgia State University. She received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Walker first came to art world attention in 1994 with her mural “Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart.” This unusual cut-paper silhouette mural, presenting an old-timey south filled with sex and slavery was an instant hit. At the age of 27 she became the second youngest recipient of the coveted John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant, second only to renowned Mayanist David Stuart. In 2007 Walker Art Center exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Oppressor, My Enemy, My Love was the artist’s first full-scale U.S. museum survey. Walker currently lives in New York, where she is a professor of visual arts in the MFA program at Columbia University. Influences include Andy Warhol, with his omnivorous eye and moral distance; and Robert Colescott, who inserted cartoonish Dixie sharecroppers into his version of Vincent van Gogh’s Dutch peasant cottages.
Some of Walker's exhibitions have been shown at The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Walker has also been shown internationally and featured on PBS. Her work graces the cover of musician Arto Lindsay's recording, Salt (2004).
Walker has produced works in ochre gouaches, video animation, shadow puppets, and "magic-lantern" projections, as well as a number of black-paper silhouettes, perhaps her most recognizable works to date.
Walker's silhouette images work to bridge unfinished folklore in the Antebellum South, raising identity and gender issues for African American women in particular. However, because of her confrontational approach to the topic, Walker's artwork is reminiscent of Andy Warhol's Pop Art during the 1960s (indeed, Walker says she adored Warhol growing up as a child). Her nightmarish yet fantastical images incorporate a cinematic feel. Walker uses images from historical textbooks to show how African American slaves were depicted during Antebellum South. Some of her images are grotesque, for example, in The Battle of Atlanta,  a white man, presumably a Southern soldier, is raping a black girl while her brother watches in shock, a white child is about to insert his sword into a nearly-lynched black woman's vagina, and a male black slave rains tears all over an adolescent white boy.
Walker debuted a public exhibition at the The Drawing Center in New York City in 1994. Her installation Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart "polarized the New York art world".
In 1997, Walker—who was 28 at the time—was one of the youngest people to receive a MacArthur fellowship. There was a lot of criticism because of her fame at such a young age and the fact that her art was most popular within the white community.
In response to Hurricane Katrina, Walker created "After the Deluge," since the hurricane had devastated many poor and black areas of New Orleans. Walker was bombarded with news images of "black corporeality," including fatalities from the hurricane reduced to bodies and nothing more. She likened these casualties to African slaves piled onto ships for the Middle Passage, the Atlantic crossing to America.
|“||I was seeing images that were all too familiar. It was black people in a state of life-or-death desperation, and everything corporeal was coming to the surface: water, excrement, sewage. It was a re-inscription of all the stereotypes about the black body.||”|
In 2009, Walker curated volume 11 of Merge Records', Score!. In February 2009, Walker was included in the inaugural exhibition of Sacramouche Gallery, "The Practice of Joy Before Death; It Just Wouldn't Be a Party Without You."
Walker lives in New York and is on the faculty of the MFA program at Columbia University. The Honolulu Museum of Art, the Missoula Art Museum (Missoula, MT ), the Seattle Art Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art (Ann Arbor, MI), and the Weisman Art Museum (Minneapolis, MN ), are among the public collections holding work by Kara Walker.
Recent works by Kara Walker include Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale (April–June 2011) at Lehmann Maupin, in collaboration with Sikkema Jenkins & Co. A concurrent exhibition, Dust Jackets for the Niggerati- and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker, opened at Sikkema Jenkins on the same day.
A Walker piece entitled The moral arc of history ideally bends towards justice but just as soon as not curves back around toward barbarism, sadism, and unrestrained chaos caused a controversy among employees at Newark Public Library who questioned in appropriateness for the reading room where it was hung. The piece was covered but not removed in December 2012. After some discussion among employees and trustees the work was again revealed.
Selected Solo Exhibitions 
- 2011: Lehman Maupin Gallery – Chrystie Street, New York, NY.
- Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY.
- Kara Walker: A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, Fondazione Merz, Torino, Italy.
- 2010: Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), Cincinnati Art Museum, OH.
- 2009: Mark Bradford, Kara Walker, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY.
- 2008: Kara Walker: The Black Road, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Malaga, Spain.
- 2007: Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; traveled to Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Armand Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX.
- 2006: Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.
- 2005: Song of the South, The Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theater, Los Angeles, CA.
- 2004: Grub for Sharks: A Concession to the Negro Populace, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
- 2002: Kara Walker, Slavery!, Slavery!, 25th Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
- 1997: May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored, The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Selected Group Exhibitions 
- 2012: African American Art Since 1950: Perspectives from the David C. Driskell Center, venues TBA.
- 2011: Race and Representation: The African American Presence in American Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC.
- Watch Me Move: The Animation Show, Barbican Art Gallery, London; Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada; Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei, Taiwan; National Science and Technology Museum, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
- 2010: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles,CA.
- In Context, Apartheid Museum (in conjunction with other venues), Johannesburg, South Africa.
- The Dissolve, Site Santa Fe Eighth International Biennial, Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM.
- Abstract Resistance, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN: Feb. 27 – May 23, 2010
- Progress Reports: Art in an Era of Diversity, Invia (Institute of International Visual Arts), London, UK.
- From then to Now: Masterworks of Contemporary African American Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, OH.
- Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.; CGAC: Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
- Brave New World, MUDAM Luxembourg, Luxembourg.
- Huckleberry Finn, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, CA.
- Soaps, Flukes and Follies, Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, TN.
- Cut. Scherenschnitte 1970-2010, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany.
- 2009: Investigations of a Dog: Works from the FACE Collections, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy; Ellipse Foundation, Cascais, Portugal; La maison rouge – Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, France; Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden; DESTE Foundation, Athens, Greece.
- A Guest + A Host = A Ghost: Works from the Dakis Joannou Collection. Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece.
- Between Art and Life: The Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.
- The Glamour Project, Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY.
- Slash: Paper Under the Knife, Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY.
- Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, MoMA, New York, NY.
- America, Beirut Art Center, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Modern and Contemporary Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH.
- In Praise of Shadows, IMMA Dublin, Ireland; Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Istanbul, Turkey; Museum Benaki, Athens,Greece.
- The Old Weird America: Folk Themes in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston TX; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum,University of Minnesota, MN, August; de Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA.
- Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH,; Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA.
- Order. Desire. Light: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawings, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland.
- Freedom: American Sculpture, The Hague Sculpture 2008, The Hague, The Netherlands.
- Las Vegas Collects Contemporary, Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV.
- The Puppet Show, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA.
- Houston Collects: African American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX.
- 2008: Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image since 1970, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; traveled to Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX.
- 2007: 52nd Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy.
- 2006: Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery, New York Historical Society, New York, NY.
- 2005: The World is a Stage: Stories Behind Pictures, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan.
- 2004: Nous Venons en Paix…, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal, Canada.
- 2002: Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, The Museum of Modern Art in Queens, Queens, NY.
- 2001: Form Follows Fiction, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy.
Selected Collections 
- Musée d’art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
- Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
- Tate Collection, London, UK
- The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
- Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois (2004). Speaking the Unspeakable: The Art of Kara Walker. Duke University Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-8223-3396-1.
- "Looking at the History of the United States, Including the Shocking Parts". Retrieved 2012=03-25.
- Flo Wilson, “On Walls and the Walkers,” The International Review of African American Art 20.3: 17–19
- "The Art of Kara Walker". Walker Art Center. Retrieved 2012=03-13.
- Cotter, Holland. "Kara Walker." The New York Times, n.d.
- Holzwarth 488
- Sikkema Jenkins & Co.—Kara Walker
- Hilton Als, "The Shadow Act", The New Yorker, October 8, 2007.
- James, Solange. "Art Critique: Kara Walker." Copious Magazine, January 24, 2008.
- David D'Arcy (April 2006). The Eyes of the Storm: Kara Walker on Hurricanes, Heroes and Villains. Modern Painters. Retrieved 2008-04-22
- "Safety Curtain 1998/1999", museum in progress, Vienna.
- Barbara Kruger (2007) "Kara Walker" Time online. Retrieved 26 July 2007
- Kara Walker in AskArt.com
- "Professor Kara Walker: Exhibition Opens at Lehmann Maupin, Sikkema Jenkins.". Retrieved 2012=03-25.
- Carter, Barry (December 2, 2012). "Censorship or common decency? Newark Library covers up controversial artwork". TheStar-Ledger. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- Carter, Barry (January 20, 2013). "Controversial painting in Newark Library is bared once again". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
- "30 Americans: Kara Walker.". Retrieved 2012=03-25.
- Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed. (2008). Art Now, Vol. 3: A cutting-edge selection of today's most exciting artists. Taschen. p. 488. ISBN 978-3-8365-0511-6.</ref>
- Goldbaum, Karen, ed. Kara Walker: Pictures From Another Time. Seattle: Marquand Books, Inc. ISBN 1-891024-50-7
- Vergne, Phillppe. Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center. ISBN 978-0-935640-86-1
Further reading 
- D’Arcy, David. "Kara Walker Kicks Up a Storm," Modern Painters (April 2006).
- Garrett, Shawn-Marie. "Return of the Repressed," Theater 32, no. 2 (Summer 2002).
- Kazanjian, Dodie. "Cut it Out," Vogue (May 2005).
- Szabo, Julia. "Kara Walker’s Shock Art," New York Times Magazine 146, no. 50740 (March 1997).
- Walker, Hamza. "Kara Walker: Cut it Out," NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art no. 11/12 (Fall/Winter 2000).
Non-fiction books and catalogues 
- Barrett, Terry. Interpreting Art: Reflecting, Wondering, and Responding, New York: Mcgraw Hill (2002).
- Berry, Ian, Darby English, Vivian Patterson, Mark Reinhardt, eds. Narratives of a Negress, Boston: M.I.T. Press (2003).
- Carpenter, Elizabeth and Joan Rothfuss. Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of A Whole: Walker Art Center Collections. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2005.
- Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, (1858).
- Shaw, Gwendolyn Dubois. Seeing the Unspeakable: The Art of Kara Walker, Durham and London: Duke University Press (2004).
- Vergne, Philippe, et al. Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2007.
- The Time 100: Time Magazine's Profile of Kara Walker
- Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips from PBS series Art:21 -- Art in the Twenty-First Century - Season 2 (2003)
- Interview with Kara Walker on YouTube
- An interview with Kara Walker
- Biographical, press, and works information
- Kara Walker's work information at the Walker Art Center
- Kara Walker's exhibition at The Renaissance Society, 1997
- Kara Walker's 2007 Whitney Exhibit
- Kara E. Walker's Song of the South at REDCAT
- A Horrible Beautiful Beast
- Review of Kara Walker's work in Huckleberry Finn at CCA Wattis ICA, San Francisco