Spreading fear and mayhem in the visual arts.

Kara Walker at Lehmann Maupin and Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York

by Suzanne on April 18th, 2011

Alabama Loyalists Greeting the Federal Gun-Boats by Kara Walker, 2005 - click to enlarge

And we're staying historically monochrome with Kara Walker whose new double show Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale will be opening at Lehmann Maupin - in collaboration with Sikkema Jenkins & Co - in New York this Thursday.

From the press release:

At Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Walker will present three new video works, which draw on her own experience in the Mississippi Delta, “a region mythologized in song and popular culture but tragically depressing.” She explains, “I drove down to the Delta thinking about the terrors of Jim Crow and slavery, yet the silent indifference of the landscape and the economic stasis, lack of mobility, and the persistence of a racist memory in the area was what stuck.” [...]

Sikkema Jenkins & Co. will present, Dust Jackets for the Niggerati- and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker a concurrent exhibition of Kara Walker’s graphite works on paper and hand-printed texts. This body of work grew out of the artist’s search for understanding of the way that power asserts itself in interpersonal and geopolitical spheres. [...]

Details for the Lehmann Maupin show below. Check Sikkema Jenkins & Co for further information about their show as nothing has gone online yet.

A Warm Summer Evening in 1863 by Kara Walker, 2008 - click to enlarge

On show: Apr 21 - Jun 4, 2011

Address: Lehmann Maupin, 201 Chrystie Street, New York, NY, tel: 212 255 2923 | Map

Press release & preview

Gallery hours: Tue - Sat: 10 AM - 6 PM

... and in other chromatically challenged but visually ingenious news...

i) The great Uno Moralez has a new bitmap marvel out:

© Uno Moralez, 2011 - click to enlarge

ii) Ruth Marten has updated her website with gorgeous new work...

Oyster by Ruth Marten, ink on found paper, 2008 - click to enlarge

by suzanne_tumblr on September 25th, 2009

© Kara Walker

This one is so powerful it really needs to stand on its own. Parkett published it the other way around and I saw her facing both left and right an equal amount of times, so if anyone knows, please tell me if I got it wrong. Gracias.

by suzanne_tumblr on September 25th, 2009

© Kara Walker

Yes, also a WurzelFavourite®, and really just a reminder that you should all go and buy the beautiful monograph that the Kunstverein Hannover has published on her a while back.

Kara Walker's "My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love"

by Suzanne on March 1st, 2008

Kara Walker in front of two of her works

About a decade ago, when I was first confronted with Kara Walker's work, I felt a very strange mix of emotions, similar to what I felt when I got lost in West Oakland and got this overwhelming feeling of "being the minority" and having committed a prenatal crime or the helpless anger I felt when I was held back by Serbian border patrols in Subotica who - understandably - didn't care much about my Swiss passport that looked just as fake as an NSK one and spoke neither English nor German nor French.

Anyway... so I looked at Kara's work and I felt this archetypical guilt again and found that I was actually trying to force myself to dislike it.. because it was oh so wrong to "like" it.. but it just wouldn't work.

But what I felt was intense... it felt like having to vindicate myself for being born on the wrong/right side of things. For having some kind of unjustified birthright I didn't do anything for. For belonging to the fortunate half of humanity and therefore being the cause that the other half is less fortunate.

When I asked myself why her works felt so familiar to me, I realised that they reminded me of a little graphic that I often stared at in my grandma's house (and that I think is still hanging there on the neatly tiled wall in the toilet, a little left of the washing basin).

It was an old cracked simplified 4-panelled 30s graphic showing a little naked black boy (he was neither African, nor Afro-American.. he was just black. Pitch-black. #000000) with big blood-red lips, golden Creole earrings, shiny black curls around his happy heart-shaped face, huge happy eyes and ridiculously bright teeth and he was showing me how to correctly brush my teeth. I don't think he was wearing a bone in his curls or pierced through his septum, but you get the general idea.

Because the little black boy (who seemed to have no worries in his life apart from keeping his happy white teeth shiny for me to look at) fascinated me so much, it remained my favourite corner of her house for a long, long time (mainly because I was terrified of all the dusty Catholic devotionalia in her house... above all the crucifix with the purple silk scarf around an emaciated Jesus hanging above the dinner table and who - I was convinced - would eventually fall down on my head and pierce my brain... which is why I always wanted to sit at the end of the table).

Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp by Kara Walker, 2005

I must have been around the age of 7, when I learned from my primary school dentist (who always carried a huge red toothbrush, a massive plastic jaw and yucky Elmex gelée that should have tasted of strawberries but didn't) that the little black boy's circulating brushing technique was actually totally wrong and that we all must immediately switch to the amazing red-to-white technique that he demonstrated on his monster jaw with his giant toothbrush of doom.

However, I still liked looking at the happy little naked black boy, but at the same time, a feeling of guilt and shame crept in and I began to realise that there were no people like him out there and that - just like my other friend, Uncle Ben - he was nothing but the white fantasy of the careless, brainless black boy and that I couldn't look him straight in the eyes if I ever did meet his human-like template.

It's shocking to see what power certain iconography can have on our subconsciousness and that it takes maybe a lifetime to fight against the visual stereotypes of your childhood. But it's an important struggle.

A few years later, when I saw the protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics on TV, I got that overmastering feeling of empowerment, commitment and responsibility that I still get whenever I see people oppose and revolt for a just cause. The feeling you get when you're demonstrating with a crowd of like-minded people and become one giant thousand-armed & -legged ball of power. One fist.

So I was spellbound when I saw their clenched fists and their eyes turned towards the ground. And I cried. I sat there crying alone in front of the TV because I knew that they'd never see this little white kid crying for and with them and I'd never get to tell them that I am sorry for everyone who was never sorry in their lives and that I felt responsible.

I feel tempted to go back to my granny's house and stick a tiny clenched fist over the little naked black boy's toothbrush.

Kara Walker's My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love show is opening tomorrow, March 2, with an artist talk at Hammer Museum in L.A.

Artist talk: March 2, 4 PM, with Kara Walker & Gary Garrels (chief curator)

On show: March 2 - June 8, 2008

Address: Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024, tel: 310.443.7000 | Map

View selected works

Watch video interview with Kara, 2007