Walker Art Center

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Press Releases Kara Walker’s First American Museum Survey Premieres at Walker Art Center February 17

Walker’s Signature Cutout Silhouettes Depict Historical Narratives Set in the Antebellum South

The first full-scale American museum survey of the work of artist Kara Walker premieres at the Walker Art Center February 17–May 13. Organized by Philippe Vergne, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and Yasmil Raymond, Assistant Curator, at the Walker, in close collaboration with the artist,

Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love

features works ranging from her signature black cut-paper silhouettes to film animations to more than 100 works on paper. After its presentation at the Walker, the exhibition will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (October 11, 2007–February 3, 2008), and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (February 17–May 11, 2008). A Walker After Hours preview party featuring film screenings, DJs, cash bars, and complimentary appetizers celebrates the exhibition on Friday, February 16. Kara Walker, joined by artist Laylah Ali, discusses her work at an Opening-Day Talk at 2 pm Saturday, February 17. (A complete listing of related events follows.)

Kara Walker is among the most complex and prolific American artists of her generation. Over the past decade, she has gained national and international recognition for her room-size tableaux depicting historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence, and subjugation through the genteel 18th-century art of cut-paper silhouettes. Set in the American South before the Civil War, Walker’s compositions play off stereotypes to portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters, mistresses, slaves, women, and children enact a subverted version of the past.

Over the years the artist has used drawing, painting, light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance and oppression, power and liberation. These scenarios thwart conventional readings of a cohesive national history and expose the collective and ongoing psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Her work leads viewers through an aesthetic experience that evokes a critical and emotional understanding of the past and proposes an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

Walker’s visual epics systematically and critically walk a line—the “color line,” to quote W.E.B. Du Bois—that moves us from the antebellum South to an analysis of many of the prevailing economic, social, and individual power structures still in place today. Deploying an acidic sense of humor, she examines the dialectic of pleasure and danger, guilt and fulfillment, desire and fear, race and class. “The black subject in the present tense is the container for specific pathologies from the past,” says the artist, “and it is continuously growing and feeding off those maladies.”

Organized as a narrative, the exhibition articulates the parallel shifts in Walker’s visual language and subject matter—from a critical analysis of the history of slavery as a microcosm of American history through the structure of romantic literature and Hollywood film to a revised history of Western modernism and its relationship to the notion of “primitivism.”

The Walker Art Center began collecting Kara Walker’s work in 1996 with the acquisition of six ink drawings from 1994 and the etching/aquatint The Means to an End … A Shadow Drama in Five Acts (1995). Also in the collection are Do You Like Crème in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997), a suite of 66 drawings in various media; the cut-paper mural Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress (2001); the video animations Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions (2004) and 8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of African-America, a Moving Picture by Kara E. Walker (2005); and a portfolio of 15 lithographs entitled Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (2005).

In 1997 Kara Walker created a new commissioned work for the Walker’s group exhibition no place (like home)—the monumental 85-foot-long cyclorama Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque Southern Slavery or “Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ (sketches from Plantation Life)” See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker, an Emancipated Negress and leader in her Cause. Her work has also been included in the Walker exhibitions The Cities Collect (2000), American Tableaux (2001), and Quartet: Barney, Gober, Levine, Walker (2005–2006).

Born in 1969 in Stockton, California, Kara Walker received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Since that time, she has created more than 30 room-size installations and hundreds of drawings and watercolors, and has been the subject of more than 40 solo exhibitions. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award (1997) and, most recently, the Deutsche Bank Prize (2004) and the Larry Aldrich Award (2005). She was the United States representative for the 25th International São Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2002). She currently lives in New York, where she is associate professor of visual arts at Columbia University, New York.

To accompany the exhibition, the Walker has published a 432-page illustrated catalogue containing critical essays by scholars and cultural critics on myriad social, racial, and gender issues present in Walker’s work by Philippe Vergne; cultural and literary historian Sander L. Gilman; art historian and critic Thomas McEvilley; art historian Robert Storr; and poet and novelist Kevin Young. The publication features more than 250 full-color images of the artist’s work, a complete exhibition history and bibliography as well as a 36-page insert contributed by the artist and an illustrated lexicon of recurring motifs in the artist’s most influential installations by Yasmil Raymond. The catalogue is distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., 155 Sixth Avenue, Second Floor, New York, NY 10013, 800.338.2665 (phone), 212.627.9484 (fax), and is available at the Walker Art Center Shop, 612.375.7638 (phone), 612.375.7565 (fax). ISBN 0-935640-86-X. $49.95 ($44.95 Walker members).

Kara Walker Online


Visitors, college professors, and high school teachers can find in-depth information about Kara Walker’s art and working process in a new online resource guide developed for the exhibition. Launching in February, the site contains an annotated resource list, questions for facilitating in-gallery and group discussions, and explorations of themes found in the artist’s work. This resource can be used to write curriculum, find a selection for a book club, or to plan a visit to the exhibition.

Kara Walker/Art on Cal

Callers dialing 612.374.8200 any time day or night, inside or outside the Walker can hear from Kara Walker. Information that’s accessed via Art on Call is also available to the public through the Walker’s Web site (newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc) as well as in Podcast versions which can be downloaded to an iPod or other MP3 player.


Opening Weekend

Walker After Hours/Preview Party

Friday, February 16, 8 pm–12 midnight
$20 ($10 Walker members); includes one complimentary drink
Tickets: 612.375.7600
Save $1 per ticket when ordering online at walkerart.org/tickets.
New members receive one free ticket.
Explore the provocative works of Kara Walker. Visit the Target “Ballroom” for Bullseye Bellinis and DJ beats. Exercise your artistic side by creating a silhouette for an art installation. State your opinion in the Rant or Rave prize drawing. Take in Paulina Hollers and other short films by Brent Green. Enjoy cash bars and complimentary Wolfgang Puck appetizers throughout the evening. Receive one free ticket when you join the Walker as a new member.

Walker After Hours sponsored by Target.

Mack Lecture

Opening-Day Artist Talk: Kara Walker with Laylah Ali

Saturday, February 17, 2 pm $10 ($8 Walker members)
McGuire Theater
Kara Walker delves into American history — political, social, cultural, and personal — to root out narratives tainted by imagination, hysteria, and revisionist fantasy. Working primarily with the genteel 18th-century art form of cut-paper silhouettes, Walker invents and reinterprets history through the use of stereotypes, caricature, and narrative. In her paintings, Laylah Ali also focuses on the figure and themes of race, violence, and emotional intensity. For this program, Ali engages Walker in a conversation about the visual and literary influences on her work and the use of history, race, humor, and shame in her narratives. This talk will be webcast live and archived at channel.walkerart.org.

The Mack Lecture Series is made possible by Aaron and Carol Mack.

Target Free Thursday Nights

Thursday, March 1

Exhibition Tour, 6 pm

Book Club

The Artist’s Bookshelf: Beloved by Toni Morrison

Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab, 7 pm
Free, but reservations required; call 612.375.7600.
Kara Walker describes her work as both visual and literary, citing the writing of Toni Morrison as a great influence on her work. This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel examines the nuances of slavery from an intensely intimate perspective, using an experimental yet accessible narrative style, similar to the way Walker tells stories. For discussion questions, visit blogs.walkerart.org/ecp and look for posts marked Artist’s Bookshelf. Presented in partnership with the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library. Books for the Artist’s Bookshelf can be found in the Walker Shop and at the Minneapolis Public Library (http://www.mplib.org). Note: authors are not present.

The Artist’s Bookshelf is a book club that explores shared themes between literature and contemporary art. Participants are encouraged to join a guided tour of the related exhibition at 6 pm and then visit Wolfgang Puck’s Coffee and Wine Cart for a treat to bring to the discussion.

Thursdays, March 15, 22

Art Lab Workshop
Heartfelt, Mind-Felt, Soul-Felt

Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab, 6–7 pm, 7–8 pm, 8–9 pm
Explore Kara Walker’s signature silhouettes at this hands-on workshop where you’ll design a silhouette for a t-shirt or tote bag using felt. Work from a template or free style your own designs that speak out about power, oppression, leadership, and inspiration. Your wearable art will start conversation wherever you go. Limit one take away item per participant. Taught by artist Roger Cummings of Juxtaposition Arts.

Registration is first-come, first-served starting at 5 pm. Sign up is limited to one one-hour session per participant.

Thursday, March 8

Gallery Dialogue

Black Playwrights and Racial Identity, 7 pm

Meet in the Bazinet Garden Lobby
“How should the negro be portrayed?” is a perplexing question African American theater makers grappled with throughout the 20th century. A complicated notion, this query sparks discussion on the role that artists and audiences play in constructing identities of black Americans. Director, playwright, and cultural activist Dawn Renee Jones presents work by three contemporary African American women playwrights particularly adept at using absurdity and magical realism to explore black identity at this in-gallery reading.

Thursday, March 29

Lecture: Confronting History, Race, and Stereotypes, 7:30 pm

Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6 pm.
Historical fact and fiction blend together in Kara Walker’s work. History is full of such stories that twist the truth and carry the biases of their time. Kevin Gaines, professor of history and Director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan will address U.S. history and its relationship to anti-black racial stereotypes. Gaines is the author of Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century and has written extensively on narratives and ideologies of race in the United States. Join him for a conversation on these complicated and unsettling issues, and the connections between his work and the histories Kara Walker presents.

Thursday, April 5

Exhibition Tour, 6 pm

Book Club
The Artist’s Bookshelf: The Known World by Edward P. Jones, 7 pm

Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab
Free, but reservations required; call 612.375.7600
This story centers on African American slave owners in the post-Civil War era—a fact of U.S. history that goes largely unknown. The social complexities of slavery revealed in this masterfully told tale mirror Kara Walker’s interest in examining the assumed truths of our collective past. For discussion questions, visit blogs.walkerart.org/ecp and look for posts marked Artist’s Bookshelf. Presented in partnership with the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library. Books for the Artist’s Bookshelf can be found in the Walker Shop and at the Minneapolis Public Library (http://www.mplib.org). Note: authors are not present.

The Artist’s Bookshelf is a book club that explores shared themes between literature and contemporary art. Participants are encouraged to join a guided tour of the related exhibition at 6 pm and then visit Wolfgang Puck’s Coffee and Wine Cart for a treat to bring to the discussion.

Thursday April 12

Lecture: Violating Black Women’s Bodies: The Legacies of Slavery in Contemporary U.S. Society, 7 pm

Kara Walker’s portrayal of the antebellum South pays particular attention to the ways that slavery’s systems of domination and power play out on the female body. Dr. Dorothy Roberts approaches this subject through her socio-political work on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues concerning reproduction, bioethics, and child welfare. Author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, she teaches at Northwestern University School of Law. Join Roberts for a lecture linking the historical and contemporary use of black women’s bodies as sites of social and sexual control and experimentation, as well as a discussion about the connections between her work and Kara Walker’s. Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6 pm.

Thursday, April 19

Gallery Dialogue: The Influence of Uncle Tom, 7 pm

Meet in the Bazinet Garden Lobby
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 book Uncle Tom’s Cabin remains one of American literature’s most influential works. Contested by scholars, its text has given rise to racial and cultural representations that remain part of society today. Taiyon Coleman, poet, teacher, and scholar of African American literature, discusses the history, interpretation, and relevance of the text in relationship to Kara Walker’s work The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven (1995).

Thursday, April 26

Lecture: Humor Noir, 7 pm

Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6 pm.
“I have a funny problem with humor, I guess, because I don’t consider it fun.” —Kara Walker, 1996
Humor is a highly complex human response. It takes many forms, prompting us to laugh at things both funny and tragic. Kara Walker’s art constantly tests these boundaries by employing a sense of humor within her images of slavery, violence, and sexual deviancy. To address these issues, Simon Critchley, author of On Humour and professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research, and the Getty Research Institute, will speak about humor, its definition and possibilities, its ethical limits and function in culture and visual art, and its tragic kernel of truth.

Target Free Thursday Nights are sponsored by Target.

Additional support provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.


The Body in Modern and Postmodern Art

Thursdays, March 22, 29; April 5, 12, 10:30 am–12 noon
$60 ($30 Walker members)
Artistic representations of the body have varied dramatically throughout history, reflecting the changing values and paradigms of different cultural moments. Since the mid-20th century, these depictions have mirrored shifting political ideologies, psychoanalytical theories, issues of gender and race, and, more recently, developments in technology and genetics. This four-week class will examine images of the human form in visual art from the 1940s to the present, exploring the body as a site of cultural meaning in both modernism and post-modernism. This class features in-depth tours of the exhibitions Body Politics: Figurative Prints and Drawings from Schiele to de Kooning and Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Taught by Megan Vossler, instructor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Reclaiming and Romancing the Color Line: Kara Walker’s Epic Narratives

Wednesdays, March 28–May 9, 6–9 pm
Hamline University Minneapolis Center, Hennepin United Methodist Church
This 11-week sampler course will explore how the work of this provocative and celebrated artist undermines idealized clichés about the antebellum South and challenges one-dimensional readings of racial stereotypes and the history of American slavery through caricature, satire, and silhouette. Developed in conjunction with the exhibition, and presented by longtime Walker tour-guide and art historian Roslye Ultan, this enriching course will delve into the work and life of Kara Walker and contextualize her work within contemporary visual culture and the traditions of western art. Presented as part of Hamline University’s Graduate School of Liberal Studies’ After 5 Urban Sampler Series. Open to all adults with a bachelor’s degree. To learn more about tuition and registration visit www.hamline.edu/gls or call 651.523.2047.

Conversations between Collections: Kara Walker in Context

Thursday, April 5
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S, Minneapolis
Meet at the Information Desk, 6 pm
Friday, April 13
Walker Art Center. Meet in the Bazinet Garden Lobby, 6 pm
$10 ($8 Walker and MIA members)
Call the Walker to register, 612.375.7600.
On this two-part tour experience, pieces from the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker will establish a context for the complex work of contemporary artist Kara Walker. From African sculpture to early colonial American decorative arts, the MIA houses a variety of objects that are reflected in the artworks in Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Discuss the themes of history, mythology, and power as seen in artworks and cultural objects from the past and the present. A reception with light refreshments follows the second session.

Gallery Tours

All tours free with gallery admission; admission is free Thursday nights from 5–9 pm.

Thursday, March 8, 1 pm

Sunday, March 11, 12 noon

Saturday, March 17, 12 noon

Thursday, March 22, 1 and 6 pm

Friday, March 30, 1 pm

Wednesday, April 4, 12 noon, Spotlight Gallery Talk

Sunday, April 8, 12 noon

Thursday, April 19, 1 pm

Thursday, April 26, 6 pm

Thursday, May 3, 1 and 6 pm

Saturday, May 12, 12 noon

Sunday, May 13, 12 noon

Adult learning opportunities are made possible by Richard and Claudia Swager.

Exhibition Tour

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
February 17–May 13, 2007

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
October 11, 2007–February 3, 2008

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
February 17–May 11, 2008

Kara Walker, Untitled (Emancipation Proclaimation), 1994

ink on paper
8 x 8 7/8 in. (20.3 x 22.5 cm)
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Miriam and Erwin Kelen Acquisition Fund for Drawings, 1996

Photo: Glenn Halvorson

Kara Walker, Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress, 2001


Collection Walker Art Center, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2002

Kara Walker, Cut, 1998

cut paper and adhesive on wall
88 x 54 in. (223.5 x 137.2 cm) overall
Collection Donna and Cargill MacMillan, Wayzata, Minnesota

Photo courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Kara Walker, Selection from Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk?, 1997

watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite on paper, 66 sheets
64 sheets: 11 5/8 x 8 3/16 in. (29.5 x 20.8 cm) each
2 sheets: 8 3/16 x 11 5/8 in. (20.8 x 29.5 cm) each
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Justin Smith Purchase Fund, 1998

Photo: Glenn Halvorson

Kara Walker, Testimony, 2004

16mm film and video transferred to DVD, black and white, silent; 8:49 min.
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Clinton and Della Walker Acquisition Fund, 2004

Photo courtesy Walker Art Center

Kara Walker, Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress, 2002


Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Kara Walker, Darkytown Rebellion, 2001

projection, cut paper, and adhesive on wall
14 x 37 ft. (4.3 x 11.3 m) overall
Collection Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg

Photo courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York