Selecting works from the span of the artist’s career, Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress featured anti-racist parodies depicting powerful images of race, sex, slavery, and violence. Widely exhibited and internationally acclaimed, Walker creates a distinct disconnect between the delicate beauty of her chosen medium — black cut-paper silhouettes, like those popular with genteel audiences of the nineteenth century — and the visceral impact of her imagery. Her work brought to light troubling episodes from the history of black and white relations and illuminated problems of racism, sexism, and abuse that have persisted into the present. Highlights of the exhibition included Gone: An Historical Romance of the Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart, a groundbreaking, fifty-foot-long panorama not seen since 1994, and For the Benefit of All the Races of Mankind (Mos’ Specially the Master One, Boss) An Exhibition of Artifacts, Remnants, and Effluvia EXCAVATED from the Black Heart of a Negress III (2002), a new work using light projections to flood Walker’s paper silhouettes and the gallery walls with bright swaths of color.
The accompanying exhibition catalogue, the first significant scholarly treatment of Walker and her work, contains reproductions of the exhibited artworks and writings by the artist. Catalogue essays by Anne M. Wagner, Professor of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley; Michele Wallace, Professor of English, Film, and Women’s Studies at the City College of New York and the City University of New York Graduate Center; and co-curators Darby English and Mark Reinhardt consider Walker’s work from a number of multidisciplinary perspectives, including political theory, art history, literary criticism, and cultural studies.