Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Her latest work, a huge 11-foot by 18-foot collage, is upsetting some audiences and being praised to the skies by others. It is now on display at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery, on 22nd street in Manhattan, the premier marketplace for contemporary art for sale.

The 47-year-old Kara Walker, who has long been heralded as one of our country's most prominent black female artists for making art about her race and gender, declared on the Internet just before the opening -- “I am tired, tired of standing up, being counted, tired of  ‘having a voice,’ or worse, ‘being a role model.’ Tired, true, of being a featured member of my racial group and/or my gender niche.” Referring to the recent White Nationalist Rally in Virginia, she strongly acknowledged her right and capacity -- “To live in this Godforsaken country as a (proudly) raced and (urgently) gendered person who is under threat by random groups of white (male) supremacist goons.”

You and I need to get up close to see what's in this painting -- what you recognize, what it's saying about who, when, and what's happened in our country. According to New York Times critic Roberta Smith, it's the "Remorseless racialized America present."

Walker makes the title of this work into a 198 word parody that playfully suggests to the audience what she wants them to think about what they're seeing, referring to one group of silhouetted figures as the "Slaughter of the Innocents( they might be guilty)," suggesting the recent police shootings of unarmed African Americans. She titles another group, an array of black women in two-piece bathing suits, as "Pool Party of Sarandapalus (after a famous Delacroix painting), because it brings to mind an incident back in 2015 when a Texas policeman pinned down a black girl at pool party.

Studying the painting you will see recognizable figures of Klansmen, Trayvon Martin, Batman, Uncle Ben,  Martin Luther King Jr., and Donald Trump as a severed head bearing a swastica on its forehead, a second Trump head held aloft by a Black Panther-like figure.

New York Magazine critic Jerry Saltz says, "Walker's enormous collage rates as perhaps the greatest work about America made in the 21st Century. Walker surely must know she may be destroying her career with her protest, but still it will be a crime if this work doesn't end up on permanent display in a prominent New York Museum."

Take a look at some of her earlier works that I wrote about back in 2015-- Kara Walker Artist.

Her paintings, collages, and what she says about them express, perhaps, her frustration that she, as a mere artist, might might have answers for the urgent questions facing us at this moment in history.  Kara Walker is demanding, shouting, howling, that we look ... see ... pay attention.

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