London – Kara Elizabeth Walker: “Negress” at Camden Arts Centre Through January 5th, 2014

November 7th, 2013

Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center
Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center

Currently on display in all three gallery spaces of Camden Arts Centre in London is a new exhibition  of works by American artist Kara Walker, which directly confront racial and gender tensions through familiar characters found in American culture, pop culture, and history.

 Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View),Ccourtesy Camden Arts Center
Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center

Born in 1969 in Stockton, California, African-American Kara Walker moved to Georgia at age 13. She attended the Atlanta College of Art through 1991 and received an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. She first became known for her work “Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occured Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart,” a cut-paper sillhouette mural.  Walker’s work often focuses on race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity.

Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center
Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center

Walker’s new works in “Negress” refer to the White Supremacist movement and gun culture in the United States. The exhibition includes large graphite drawings representing book covers for works exploring transitions in black American history and missing narratives, as well as a video installation of a shadow play and cut paper silhouette “wall samplers.”  Familiar stylistic and thematic tropes for Walker, the exhibition is a fitting continuation of the artist’s work, welcoming an extended experience of her work that draws at her long-running narratives and explorations in race and gender in American society.

Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center
Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center

Themes running throughout the exhibition include racial myths, stereotypes, repression, discrimination, sexual violence, suffering, and untold stories of black America. The works are simple in composition and steeped deeply in history and personal meanings.  Utilizing weighty cultural imagery, as well as depictions of racial stereotypes of 19th and 20th century America, Walker’s works here feel like a moment of suspended recognition, forcing the dark heart of American society into the open for a moment of honest address.

Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center
Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center

Walker’s influences range from her own father to Andy Warhol, Robert Colescott and Vincent van Gogh. Her works have been shown at The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, the MoMA in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Walker currently lives and works in New York.  Negress will continue at Camden Arts Center through January 5th 2014.

Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View),Ccourtesy Camden Arts Center

Kara Walker, Negress (Installation View), Courtesy Camden Arts Center

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Camden Arts Center]