Sunday, September 23, 2007

Repicturing The Past

It looks like I won't have time to check out the Contemporary Caribbean Art exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, which is really too bad. But I got to see a fantastic Kara Walker series that I've never seen before at MoMA today. I'll take what I can get.

From Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated). 2005. One from a portfolio of fifteen lithograph and screenprints, composition

Walker is a historical revisionist artist akin to a Willie Cole or a Bettye Saar. Her pop-up books depicting jarringly crude slavery relics are exceptional, but I love the playfulness of this set of lithographs in particular. Walker's trademark black profile cutouts become the focal point of pages taken from Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War. Rewritten, with Walker's stamp of approval it seems.

The entire exhibit, Repicturing the Past/Picturing the Present, is worth a look. Conceptually the images are all linked through their attempts to rethink accepted historical accounts. It's up till November 5.


Christopher said...


Christopher said...

Sorry about the short "fd" comment, I was just testing my login information. I wanted to share the following:

"I felt the work of Kara Walker was sort of revolting and negative and a form of betrayal to the slaves, particularly women and children; that it was basically for the amusement and the investment of the white art establishment."
--Betye Saar, African American artist

"What is troubling and complicates the matter is that Walker's words in published interviews mock African Americans and Africans...She has said things such as 'All black people in America want to be slaves a little bit.'...Walker consciously or unconsciously seems to be catering to the bestial fantasies about blacks created by white supremacy and racism."
--Howardena Pindell, African American artist, at the Johannesburg Biennale, October 1997.

All black people in America want to be slaves a little bit.
--Kara Walker, as quoted by Jerry Saltz in a 1996 FlashArt piece

Her blacks don't resist aggression, or at least not in obvious ways. They seem to give in to it, let themselves be abjectly used, often by one another.
--2003 NYT article by Holland Carter

Kara Walker is not presenting a heightened reality of American slavery. Blackness is a concept that Kara Walker objectively debases. These images are visualizations of what Toni Morrison describes as the white subconscious Playing in the Dark. As such, they are a reflection of the psychosis of white supremacy. However, it is not a full critique of this mindset and may in fact justify this mindset. It is my opinion that she rationalizes and projects in her work, the psychosis of the white male mindset, without the guilt, in fact with total acceptence.

Please find more discussion on Kara Walker's work at