Kara Walker
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Kara Elizabeth Walker (born November 26, 1969) is an American contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, filmmaker, and professor who explores race,
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to femininity and masculinity and differentiating between them. Depending on the context, this may include sex-based social structures (i.e. gender roles) and gender identity. Most cultures us ...

gender
,
sexuality Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves Human sexual activity, sexually. This involves biological, psychological, Physical intimacy, physical, erotic, Emotional intimacy, emotional, social, or Spirituality, spiritua ...
, violence, and
identity
identity
in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper
silhouette A silhouette ( , ) is the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single colour, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject. The interior of a silhouette is featureless, and the silhou ...

silhouette
s. Walker was awarded a
MacArthur fellowship The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded annually by the MacArthur Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation typically to ...
in 1997, at the age of 28, becoming one of the youngest ever recipients of the award. She has been the Tepper Chair in Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts,
Rutgers University Rutgers University (; RU), officially Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a Public university, public land-grant research university consisting of four campuses in New Jersey. Chartered in 1766, Rutgers was originally called Queen's ...
since 2015. Walker is regarded as among the most prominent and acclaimed
Black American African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans and Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attribut ...
artists working today.


Early life and education

Walker was born in 1969 in
Stockton, California Stockton is a city in and the county seat of San Joaquin County, California, San Joaquin County in the Central Valley (California), Central Valley of the U.S. state of California. Stockton was founded by Carlos Maria Weber in 1849 after he acquir ...
. Her father, Larry Walker, was a painter and professor. Her mother Gwendolyn was an administrative assistant. Als, Hilton (October 8, 2007)
"The Shadow Act"
''
The New Yorker ''The New Yorker'' is an American weekly magazine featuring journalism, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. Founded as a weekly in 1925, the magazine is published 47 times annually, with five of these issues ...

The New Yorker
''.
A 2007 review in the New York Times described her early life as calm, noting that "nothing about alker'svery early life would seem to have predestined her for this task. Born in 1969, she grew up in an integrated
California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, located along the West Coast of the United States, Pacific Coast. With nearly 39.2million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the List of states and territori ...
suburb, part of a generation for whom the uplift and fervor of the civil rights movement and the want-it-now anger of Black Power were yesterday's news." When Walker was 13, her father accepted a position at
Georgia State University Georgia State University (Georgia State, State, or GSU) is a Public university, public research university in Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1913, it is one of the University System of Georgia's four research universities. It is also the ...
. They settled in the city of Stone Mountain. The move was a
culture shock Culture shock is an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one's own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration ...
for the young artist. In sharp contrast with the multi-cultural environment of coastal California, Stone Mountain still held
Ku Klux Klan The Ku Klux Klan (), commonly shortened to the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist, Right-wing terrorism, right-wing terrorist, and hate group whose primary targets are African Americans, Jews, Hispanic and Latino Americans, L ...
rallies. At her new high school, Walker recalls, "I was called a '
nigger In the English language, the word ''nigger'' is an ethnic slur used against black people, especially African Americans. Starting in the late 1990s, references to ''nigger'' have been progressively replaced by the euphemism , notably in cases ...
,' told I looked like a monkey, accused (I didn't know it was an accusation) of being a '
Yankee The term ''Yankee'' and its contracted form ''Yank'' have several interrelated meanings, all referring to people from the United States. Its various senses depend on the context, and may refer to New Englanders, residents of the Northern United St ...
.'" Walker received her BFA from the
Atlanta College of Art The Atlanta College of Art (ACA) was a private four-year art college located in Atlanta Atlanta ( ) is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Georgia. It is the seat of Fulton County, the most populous county i ...
in 1991 and her MFA from the
Rhode Island School of Design The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD , pronounced "Riz-D") is a Private college, private Art school, art and design school in Providence, Rhode Island. The school was founded as a coeducational institution in 1877 by Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf, ...
in 1994. Walker found herself uncomfortable and afraid to address race within her art during her early college years, worrying it would be received as "typical" or "obvious"; however, she began introducing race into her art while attending Rhode Island School of Design for her Master's. Walker recalls reflecting on her father's influence: "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."


Work and career

Walker is best known for her panoramic
frieze In architecture, the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic order, Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Patera (architecture), Paterae are also usually used to decorate frie ...
s of cut-paper silhouettes, usually black figures against a white wall, which address the history of American slavery and racism through violent and unsettling imagery. She has also produced works in
gouache Gouache (; ), body color, or opaque watercolor is a water-medium paint consisting of Pigment, natural pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic or dextrin), and sometimes additional Chemically inert, inert material. Gouache is designe ...
,
watercolor Watercolor (American English) or watercolour (British English; see American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, spelling differences), also ''aquarelle'' (; from Italian diminutive of Latin ''aqua'' "water"), is a painting met ...
, video animation, shadow puppets, "magic-lantern" projections, as well as large-scale sculptural installations like her ambitious public exhibition with
Creative Time Creative Time is a New York-based nonprofit arts organization. It was founded in 1974 to support the creation of innovative, site-specific, socially engaged artworks in the public realm, particularly in vacant spaces of historical and architectura ...
called " A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant" (2014). The black and white silhouettes confront the realities of history while also using the stereotypes from the era of slavery to relate to persistent modern-day concerns. Her exploration of American racism can be applied to other countries and cultures regarding relations between race and gender, and reminds us of the power of art to defy conventions. She first came to the art world's 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 cut-paper silhouette mural, presenting an Antebellum south filled with sex and slavery, was an instant hit.Cotter, Holland. "Kara Walker." "The New York Times," n.d. At the age of 28, she became the second youngest recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius" grant, second only to renowned Mayanist David Stuart. In 2007, the Walker Art Center exhibition "Kara Walker: My Complement, My Oppressor, My Enemy, My Love" was the artist's first full-scale US museum survey. Her influences include
Andy Warhol Andy Warhol (; born Andrew Warhola Jr.; August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American visual artist, film director, and producer who was a leading figure in the Art movement, visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore th ...
, whose art Walker says she admired as a child,
Adrian Piper Adrian Margaret Smith Piper (born September 20, 1948) is an American conceptual artist and Kantian philosopher. Her work addresses how and why those involved in more than one discipline may experience professional ostracism, Other (philosophy), ...
, and Robert Colescott. Walker's silhouette images work to bridge unfinished folklore in the
Antebellum South In History of the Southern United States, the history of the Southern United States, the Antebellum Period (from la, ante bellum, lit=Status quo ante bellum, before the war) spanned the Treaty of Ghent, end of the War of 1812 to the start of ...
, raising identity and gender issues for African-American women in particular. Walker uses images from historical textbooks to show how enslaved African Americans were depicted during Antebellum South. The silhouette was typically a genteel tradition in American art history; it was often used for family portraits and book illustrations. Walker carried on this portrait tradition but used them to create characters in a nightmarish world, a world that reveals the brutality of American racism and inequality. Walker incorporates ominous, sharp fragments of the South's landscape, such as
Spanish moss Spanish moss (''Tillandsia usneoides'') is an epiphytic flowering plant Flowering plants are plants that bear flowers and fruits, and form the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Gre ...
trees and a giant moon obscured by dramatic clouds. These images surround the viewer and create a circular, claustrophobic space. This circular format paid homage to another art form, the 360-degree historical painting known as the cyclorama. 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 Lynching is an extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, punish a convicted transgressor, or intimidate people. It can also be an ex ...
black woman's vagina; and a male black slave rains tears all over an adolescent white boy. The use of physical stereotypes such as flatter profiles, bigger lips, straighter nose, and longer hair helps the viewer immediately distinguish the black subjects from the white subjects. Walker depicts the inequalities and mistreatment of African Americans by their white counterparts. Viewers at the Studio Museum in Harlem looked sickly, shocked, and appalled upon seeing her exhibition. Thelma Golden, the museum's chief curator, said that "throughout her career, Walker has challenged and changed the way we look at and understand American history. Her work is provocative, emotionally wrenching, yet overwhelmingly beautiful and intellectually compelling." Walker has said that her work addresses the way Americans look at racism with a "soft focus," avoiding "the confluence of disgust and desire and voluptuousness that are all wrapped up in ..racism." In an interview with New York's
Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street (Manhattan), 53rd Street between Fifth Avenue, Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It plays a major role in developing and collecting modern art, ...
, Walker stated: "I guess there was a little bit of a slight rebellion, maybe a little bit of a renegade desire that made me realize at some point in my adolescence that I really liked pictures that told stories of things–
genre painting Genre painting (or petit genre), a form of genre art, depicts aspects of everyday life by portraying ordinary people engaged in common activities. One common definition of a genre scene is that it shows figures to whom no identity can be attached ...
s, historical paintings– the sort of derivatives we get in contemporary society."


Notable works

In her piece created in 2000, "Insurrection! (Our Tools Were Rudimentary, Yet We Pressed On)", the silhouetted characters are against a background of colored light projections. This gives the piece a transparent quality, evocative of the production cels from the animated films of the 1930s. It also references the plantation story " Gone With the Wind" and the Technicolor film based on it. Also, the light projectors were set up so that the shadows of the viewers were cast on the wall, making them characters and encouraging them to assess the work's tough themes. In 2005, she created the exhibit "8 Possible Beginnings" or: "The Creation of African-America, a Moving Picture," which introduced moving images and sound. This helped further immerse the viewers into her dark worlds. In this exhibit, the silhouettes are used as shadow puppets. Additionally, she uses the voice of herself and her daughter to suggest how the heritage of early American slavery has affected her image as an artist and woman of color. In response to
Hurricane Katrina Hurricane Katrina was a destructive List of Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes, Category 5 Atlantic hurricane that caused over 1,800 fatalities and $125 billion in damage in late August 2005, especially in the city of New Orleans and the surrou ...
, Walker created "After the Deluge" since the hurricane had devastated many poor and black areas of
New Orleans New Orleans ( , ,New Orleans
Merriam-Webster.
; french: La Nouvelle-Orléans , es, Nuev ...
. Walker was bombarded with news images of "black corporeality." She likened these casualties to enslaved Africans piled onto ships for the
Middle Passage The Middle Passage was the stage of the Atlantic slave trade The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas ...
, the Atlantic crossing to America. Walker took part in the 2009 inaugural exhibition at Scaramouche Gallery in New York City with a group exhibit called "The Practice of Joy Before Death; It Just Wouldn't Be a Party Without You." 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. Walker created "Katastwóf Karavan" for the 2018 art festival "Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp" in New Orleans. This sculpture was an old-timey wagon, with Walker's signature silhouettes portraying slaveholders and enslaved people making up the sides and a custom-built steam-powered
calliope In Greek mythology, Calliope ( ; grc, Καλλιόπη, Kalliópē, beautiful-voiced) is the Muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; so called from the ecstatic harmony of her voice. Hesiod and Ovid called her the "Chief of all Muses". ...
playing songs off "black protest and celebration." Although Walker is known for her serious exhibitions with an overall deep meaning behind her work, she admits relying on "humor and viewer interaction." Walker has stated, "I didn't want a completely passive viewer" and "I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn't walk away; he would either giggle nervously, get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful."


Commissions

In 2002, Walker created a site-specific installation, "An Abbreviated Emancipation (from a larger work: The Emancipation Approximation)," which was commissioned by The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor. The work represented motifs and themes of race relations and their roots in the system of slavery before the Civil War. In 2005,
The New School The New School is a Private university, private research university in New York City. It was founded in 1919 as The New School for Social Research with an original mission dedicated to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry and a home for pr ...
unveiled Walker's first public art installation, a site-specific mural titled "Event Horizon," and placed along a grand stairway leading from the main lobby to a major public program space. In May 2014, Walker debuted her first sculpture, a monumental piece and public artwork entitled "A Subtlety, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant." The massive work was installed in the derelict Domino Sugar Refinery (Brooklyn), Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn and commissioned by
Creative Time Creative Time is a New York-based nonprofit arts organization. It was founded in 1974 to support the creation of innovative, site-specific, socially engaged artworks in the public realm, particularly in vacant spaces of historical and architectura ...
. The installation consisted of a female
sphinx A sphinx ( , grc, σφίγξ , Aeolic Greek, Boeotian: , plural sphinxes or sphinges) is a mythical creature with the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of a falcon. In Culture of Greece, Greek tradition, the sphinx has the he ...
figure, measuring approximately 75 feet long by 35 feet high, preceded by an arrangement of fifteen life-size young male figures, dubbed attendants. The sphinx, which bore the head and features of the
Mammy archetype A mammy is a U.S. historical stereotype depicting black women who work in a white family and nurse the family's children. The fictionalized mammy character is often visualized as a larger-sized, dark-skinned woman with a motherly personality ...
, was made by covering a core of machine-cut blocks of polystyrene with 80 tons of white sugar donated by
Domino Foods Domino Foods, Inc. (also known as DFI and formerly known as W. & F.C. Havemeyer Company, Havemeyer, Townsend & Co. Refinery, and Domino Sugar) is a privately held sugar marketing and sales company based in Yonkers, New York, Yonkers, New York ( ...
. The fifteen male attendants were modeled after racist figurines that Walker purchased online. Five were made from solid sugar, and the other ten were resin sculptures coated in molasses. The fifteen attendants stood 60 inches tall and weighed 300-500 pounds each. The factory and the artwork were demolished after the exhibition closed in July 2014, as had been previously planned.Creative Time Projects. Kara Walker.
/ref>"A Sonorous Subtlety: KARA WALKER with Kara Rooney"
''Brooklyn Rail'', May 6, 2014.
Walker has hinted that the whiteness of the sugar references its "aesthetic, clean, and pure quality." The slave trade is highlighted in the sculpture as well. Remarking on the overwhelmingly white audience at the exhibition in tandem with the political and historical content of the installation, art critic Jamilah King argued that "the exhibit itself is a striking and incredibly well-executed commentary on the historical relationship between race and capital, namely the money made off the backs of black slaves on sugar plantations throughout the Western Hemisphere. So the presence of so many white people -- and my presence as a black woman who's a descendant of slaves -- seemed to also be part of the show." The work attracted over 130,000 visitors in its eight-weekend run. In his commentary on the sculpture, art historian Richard J. Powell wrote, "No matter how noble or celebratory in tone Walker's title for this work seemed, in this post-modern moment of moral skepticism and collective distrust, a work of art in a public arena—especially a visually perplexing nude—would be subjected to not just serious criticism, but Internet trolling and mockery." In 2016, Walker revealed "Slaughter of the Innocents (They Might be Guilty of Something)." In the painting, Walker depicts an African American woman slicing a baby with a small
scythe A scythe ( ) is an agriculture, agricultural hand tool for mowing grass or Harvest, harvesting Crop, crops. It is historically used to cut down or reaping, reap edible grain, grains, before the process of threshing. The scythe has been largely ...
. The influence for this detail was that of Margaret Garner, an enslaved person who killed her daughter to prevent her child from returning to slavery. In 2019, Walker created "Fons Americanus," the fifth annual Hyundai Commission at
Tate Modern Tate Modern is an art gallery located in London. It houses the United Kingdom's national collection of international Modern art, modern and contemporary art, and forms part of the Tate group together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St ...
's Turbine Hall. The fountain, measuring up to , contains allegorical motifs referencing the histories of Africa, America, and Europe, particularly pertaining to the
Atlantic slave trade The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and ...
. In her review of Walker's "Fons Americanus" for
Artnet News Artnet.com is an art market The art market is the Market (economics), marketplace of buyers and sellers trading in commodities, services, and works of art. The Economics of the arts and literature#The market for artworks, art market operate ...
, Naomi Rea noted that "the piece is so loaded with art-historical and cultural references that you could teach an entire college history course without leaving Turbine Hall." She also observed that – owing to the fountain's running water – the great work of art could be both seen and heard in the Turbine Hall. The artwork is, at the same time, a sort of public monument inspired in part by the Victoria Memorial in front of
Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace () is a London royal official residence, residence and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and roya ...
. In 2019, acclaimed writer
Zadie Smith Zadie Smith FRSL (born Sadie; 25 October 1975) is an English novelist, essayist, and short-story writer. Her debut novel, ''White Teeth'' (2000), immediately became a best-seller and won a number of awards. She has been a tenured professor ...
observed something about public monuments that Walker interrogates in "Fons Americanus": "Monuments are complacent; they put a seal upon the past, they release us from dread. For Walker, dread is an engine: it prompts us to remember and rightly fear the ruins we shouldn't want to return to and don't wish to re-create—if we're wise."


Other projects

For the season 1998/1999 in the
Vienna State Opera The Vienna State Opera (, ) is an opera house and opera company based in Vienna, Austria. The 1,709-seat Renaissance Revival architecture, Renaissance Revival venue was the first major building on the Vienna Ring Road. It was built from 1861 to ...
, Walker designed a large-scale picture (176 m2) as part of the exhibition series "Safety Curtain," conceived by museum in progress."Safety Curtain 1998/1999"
museum in progress, Vienna.
In 2009, Walker curated volume 11 of Merge Records', ''Score!''. Invited by fellow artist Mark Bradford in 2010 to develop a set of free lesson plans for
K-12 K-1 is a professional kickboxing promotion established in 1993, well known worldwide mainly for its heavyweight division fights and Grand Prix tournaments. In January 2012, K-1 Global Holdings Limited, a company registered in Hong Kong, acquired ...
teachers at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Walker offered a lesson that had students collaborating on a story by exchanging
text message Text messaging, or texting, is the act of composing and sending electronic messages, typically consisting of alphabetic and numeric characters, between two or more users of mobile devices, desktop computer, desktops/laptops, or another type of ...
s. In March 2012, artist Clifford Owens performed a score by Walker at
MoMA PS1 MoMA PS1 is a contemporary art Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing ...
. In 2013, Walker produced 16
lithographs Lithography () is a planographic Planographic printing means printing from a flat surface, as opposed to a raised surface (as with relief printing) or incised surface (as with intaglio (printmaking), intaglio printing). Lithography and off ...
for a limited edition, fine art printing of the libretto '' Porgy & Bess'', by DuBose Heyward and
Ira Gershwin Ira Gershwin (born Israel Gershovitz; December 6, 1896 – August 17, 1983) was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs in the English language of th ...
, published by the Arion Press.


Controversy

The
Detroit Institute of Art The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), located in Midtown Detroit Midtown Detroit is a mixed-use area consisting of a business district, cultural center, a major research university, and several residential neighborhoods; it is located along the ...
removed her "The Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts" (1995) from a 1999 exhibition "Where the Girls Are: Prints by Women from the DIA's Collection" when African-American artists and collectors protested its presence. The five-panel silhouette of an antebellum plantation scene was in the permanent collection and was to be re-exhibited at some point according to a DIA spokesperson. 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 controversy among employees at
Newark Public Library The Newark Public Library (NPL) is a public library system in Newark, New Jersey. The library system offers numerous programs and events to its diverse population. With eight different locations, the Newark Public Library serves as a Statewide Re ...
who questioned its appropriateness for the reading room where it was hung. The artwork included depictions of the
Ku Klux Klan The Ku Klux Klan (), commonly shortened to the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist, Right-wing terrorism, right-wing terrorist, and hate group whose primary targets are African Americans, Jews, Hispanic and Latino Americans, L ...
accompanied by a
burning cross In modern times, cross burning or cross lighting is a practice which is associated with the Ku Klux Klan. However, it was practiced long before the Klan's inception. Since the early 20th century, the Klan burned crosses on hillsides as a way to i ...
, a naked black woman fellating a white man, and
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party (United States), Democratic Party, Obama was the first Af ...
. The piece was covered but not removed in December 2012. After discussion among employees and trustees the work was again uncovered. In March 2013 Walker visited the New Jersey Newark Public Library to discuss the work and the controversy. Walker discussed the content of the work, including racism, identity, and her use of "heroic" figures such as Obama. Walker asked, " these archetypes collapse history? They're supposed to expand the conversation, but they often collapse it." Walker described the overwhelming subject matter of her works as a "too-muchness". In the 1999 PBS documentary "I'll Make Me a World,"
African-American African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans and Afro-Americans) are an Race and ethnicity in the United States, ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa. The term "African American ...
artist Betye Saar criticized Walker's work for its "revolting and negative" depiction of black stereotypes and enslaved people. Saar accused the art of pandering to the enjoyment of "the white art establishment." In 1997 Saar emailed 200 fellow artists and politicians to voice her concerns about Walker's use of racist and sexist imagery and its positive reception in the art world. This attention to Walker's practice led to a 1998 symposium at Harvard University, ''Change a Joke and Slip the Yoke: A Harvard University Conference on Racist Imagery'', which discussed her work.


Exhibitions

Walker's first museum survey, in 2007, was organized by
Philippe Vergne Philippe Vergne (born 1966) is a French curator and director of the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum. Until March 2019, he was director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) is a contemp ...
for the
Walker Art Center The Walker Art Center is a multidisciplinary contemporary art center in the Lowry Hill, Minneapolis, Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Walker is one of the most-visited modern and contemporary art museums in ...
in
Minneapolis Minneapolis () is the largest city in Minnesota, United States, and the county seat of Hennepin County. The city is abundant in water, with list of lakes in Minneapolis, thirteen lakes, wetlands, the Mississippi River, creeks and waterfalls. ...
and traveled to the
Whitney Museum The Whitney Museum of American Art, known informally as "The Whitney", is an art museum An art museum or art gallery is a building or space for the display of art, usually from the museum's own Collection (artwork), collection. It might be i ...
in New York, the
Hammer Museum The Hammer Museum, which is affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Los Angeles, Calif ...
in Los Angeles, and the ARC/Musee d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris.


Solo exhibitions

* 2013: ''We at the Camden Arts Centre are Exceedingly Proud to present an Exhibition of Capable Artworks by the Notable Hand of the Celebrated American, Kara Elizabeth Walker, Negress'', Camden Art Centre, London (toured to the MAC, Belfast in 2014) *2014: "A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant," Creative Time, Brooklyn, NY. * 2016: "The Ecstasy of St. Kara,"
Cleveland Museum of Art The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is an art museum in Cleveland, Ohio, located in the Wade Park District, in the University Circle neighborhood on the city's east side. Internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian art, Asian and ...
. * 2017: "Sikkema Jenkins and Co. is Compelled to Present the Most Astounding And Important Painting Show of the Fall Art Show Viewing Season!", Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY. *2019: Untitled – Hyundai Commission,
Tate Modern Tate Modern is an art gallery located in London. It houses the United Kingdom's national collection of international Modern art, modern and contemporary art, and forms part of the Tate group together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St ...
. * 2021: "A Black Hole is Everything a Star Longs to Be,"
Kunstmuseum Basel The Kunstmuseum Basel houses the oldest public art collection in the world and is generally considered to be the most important museum of art in Switzerland. It is listed as a Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significa ...
, Switzerland


Collections

Among the public collections holding work by Walker are the
Minneapolis Institute of Art The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is an arts museum located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. Home to more than 90,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history, Mia is one of the largest art museums in the United State ...
and the
Weisman Art Museum The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is an art museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Founded in 1934 as University Gallery, the museum was originally housed in an upper floor of the university's Northrop Auditorium. In 19 ...
(Minneapolis, Minnesota); the Tate Collection, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), formerly known as the Madison Art Center, is an independent, non-profit art museum located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. MMoCA is dedicated to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving modern and co ...
(Madison, WI), the Menil Collection, Houston; and the Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, Virginia. Early large-scale cut-paper works have been collected by, among others,
Jeffrey Deitch Jeffrey Deitch (pronounced ''DIE-tch'';Mike Boehm (January 12, 2010)L.A.'s MOCA picks art dealer Jeffrey Deitch as director''Los Angeles Times The ''Los Angeles Times'' (abbreviated as ''LA Times'') is a daily newspaper A newspaper is ...
and
Dakis Joannou Dakis Joannou (Leonidas Ioannou; el, Δάκης Ιωάννου; born December 30, 1939) is a Greek Cypriot industrialist and art collector. He is considered to be one of the leading collectors of contemporary art in the world and is famous for ac ...
.


Recognition

In 1997, Walker, who was 28 at the time, was one of the youngest people to receive a
MacArthur fellowship The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded annually by the MacArthur Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation typically to ...
. 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 2007, Walker was listed among ''
Time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various me ...
'' magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World, Artists and Entertainers, in a citation written by fellow artist
Barbara Kruger Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual art Conceptual art, also referred to as conceptualism, is art in which the concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas. They are understood to be the fundamental building b ...
. In 2012, she was elected to the
American Academy of Arts and Letters The American Academy of Arts and Letters is a 300-member honor society whose goal is to "foster, assist, and sustain excellence" in American literature, Music of the United States, music, and Visual art of the United States, art. Its fixed number ...
. She was elected to the
American Philosophical Society The American Philosophical Society (APS), founded in 1743 in Philadelphia, is a scholarly organization that promotes knowledge in the sciences and humanities through research, professional meetings, publications, library resources, and communi ...
in 2018. Walker has received the Deutsche Bank Prize and the Larry Aldrich Award.Kara Walker: Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale, April 21 – June 25, 2011
Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.
She was the United States representative for the 25th International São Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2002). She is the 2005 Larry Aldrich Award recipient. In 2016 completed a residency at the
American Academy in Rome The American Academy in Rome is a research and arts institution located on the Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill) in Rome. The academy is a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. History In 1893, a group of American architects, ...
. Doreen St. Félix (April 16, 2017)
"Kara Walker's Next Act"
''
New York Magazine ''New York'' is an American biweekly magazine concerned with life, culture, politics, and style generally, and with a particular emphasis on New York City New York, often called New York City or NYC, is the List o ...
''.
Walker has been featured on PBS. Her work appears on the cover of musician
Arto Lindsay Arthur Morgan "Arto" Lindsay (born May 28, 1953) is an American guitarist, singer, record producer and experimental composer. He was a member of the pioneering 1970s no wave group DNA (American band), DNA, which featured on the 1978 compilation ...
's recording, "Salt" (2004). In addition, she co-wrote the song "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" on the
Destroyer In navy, naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, manoeuvrable, long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a Naval fleet, fleet, convoy or Carrier battle group, battle group and defend them against powerful short range attack ...
album " Kaputt." Her name appears in the lyrics of the
Le Tigre Le Tigre (, ; French for "The Tiger") is an American electronic rock band formed by Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill), Johanna Fateman and Sadie Benning in 1998 in New York City. Benning left in 2000 and was replaced by JD Samson for the rest of t ...
song " Hot Topic." In 2017, a large scale mural portrait of Kara Walker done by artist
Chuck Close Charles Thomas Close (July 5, 1940 – August 19, 2021) was an American painter, visual artist, and photographer who made massive-scale photorealist and abstract portraits of himself and others. Close also created photo portraits using a very l ...
was installed in a New York City subway station ( Q line, 86th Street), part of a MTA public arts program.


Personal life

Early in her career, Walker lived in
Providence, Rhode Island Providence is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. One of the oldest cities in New England, it was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a Reformed Baptist theologian and religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay ...
with her husband, German-born jewelry professor Klaus Bürgel,Julie L. Belcove (March 2007)
History Girl
'' W''.
whom she married in 1996. In 1997, she gave birth to a daughter. The couple separated, and their divorce was finalized in 2010.Blake Gopnik (April 25, 2014)
"Rarely One for Sugarcoating: Kara Walker Creates a Confection at the Domino Refinery"
''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid d ...
''.
As of 2017, Walker is in a relationship with photographer and filmmaker Ari Marcopoulos. Walker moved to
Fort Greene, Brooklyn Fort Greene is a neighborhood in the northwestern part of the New York City Borough (New York City), borough of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is bounded by Flushing Avenue and the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the north, Flatbush Avenue Extension and Downt ...
in 2003 and has been a professor of visual arts in the MFA program at
Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a Private university, private research university in New York City. Established in 1754 as King's College on the grounds of Trinity ...
since then. She maintained a studio in the
Garment District, Manhattan The Garment District, also known as the Garment Center, the Fashion District, or the Fashion Center, is a List of Manhattan neighborhoods, neighborhood located in the boroughs of New York City, borough of Manhattan in New York City. The dense c ...
from 2010 until 2017. In May 2017, she moved her art practice to a studio in Industry City. She also owns a country home in rural
Massachusetts Massachusetts (Massachusett language, Massachusett: ''Muhsachuweesut assachusett writing systems, məhswatʃəwiːsət'' English: , ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England ...
. In addition to her own practice, Walker served on the board of directors of the
Foundation for Contemporary Arts The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), is a nonprofit based foundation in New York City that offers financial support and recognition to contemporary performing and visual artists through awards for artistic innovation and potential. It was ...
(FCA) between 2011 and 2016."Foundation for Contemporary Arts Announces 2016 Grants to Artists"
Foundation for Contemporary Arts The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), is a nonprofit based foundation in New York City that offers financial support and recognition to contemporary performing and visual artists through awards for artistic innovation and potential. It was ...
(FCA), press release of January 19, 2016.


Further reading


Articles

* 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). * Als, Hilton. "The Shadow Act," "The New Yorker", October 8, 2007 * Als, Hilton. "The Sugar Sphinx," "The New Yorker", May 8, 2014 * Scott, Andrea K. "Kara Walker's Ghosts of Future Evil", the "New Yorker", September 9, 2017 *Wall, David. "Transgression, Excess, and the Violence of Looking in the Art of Kara Walker," "Oxford Art Journal" vol. 33, no. 3 (2010). https://www.jstor.org/stable/40983288?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents


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: MIT 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. * Géré, Vanina. "Kara Walker", October Files series, The MIT Press (2022). https://mitpress.mit.edu/9780262544474/kara-walker/ * 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). http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/55008318 * Vergne, Philippe, et al. "Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love". Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2007. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/602217956 * Walker, Kara E. "Kara Walker: After the Deluge". New York: Rizzoli, 2007. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/144225309 * Walker, Kara E., Olga Gambari, and Richard Flood. ''Kara Walker: A Negress of Noteworthy Talent''. Torino: Fondazione Merz, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/768397358


Web sources

* The Art Story: Kara Walker, Modern Art Insight. 2016


Notes


References

* * Goldbaum, Karen, ed. "Kara Walker: Pictures From Another Time." Seattle: Marquand Books, Inc. *Smith, Zadie. "What Do We Want History to Do to Us?" "The New York Review of Books", February 27, 2020. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/02/27/kara-walker-what-do-we-want-history-to-do-to-us/ * Vergne, Phillppe. "Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love." Minneapolis: Walker Art Center.


External links


Kara Walker website



Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips
from PBS series '' Art:21 -- Art in the Twenty-First Century'' - Season 2 (2003)
Kara E. Walker's Song of the South
at
REDCAT Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater (REDCAT) is an interdisciplinary contemporary arts center for innovative visual, performing and media arts in downtown Los Angeles, located inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall The Walt Disney Concert Hall ...

Kara Walker
at ''Ocula''
Kara Walker
at Smithsonian American Art Museum {{DEFAULTSORT:Walker, Kara 1969 births Living people 20th-century African-American artists 20th-century African-American women 20th-century American printmakers 20th-century American women artists 21st-century African-American artists 21st-century African-American women 21st-century American women artists African-American contemporary artists African-American painters African-American printmakers African-American sculptors African-American women artists American conceptual artists American contemporary artists American contemporary painters American installation artists American women academics American women printmakers Artists from Stockton, California Atlanta College of Art alumni Columbia University faculty Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences MacArthur Fellows Members of the American Philosophical Society Painters from California People from Fort Greene, Brooklyn Postmodern artists Rhode Island School of Design alumni Sculptors from California Silhouettists Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters