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Victoria Miro opens first of two exhibitions at the gallery this autumn by Kara Walker
Kara Walker, Four Idioms on Negro Art #2 Graffiti, 2015. Flashe, tempera, watercolour, and chalk on paper, 182.88 x 347.98 cm. Courtesy the Artist, Sikkema Jenkins & Co. New York and Victoria Miro, London © Kara Walker.

LONDON.- Victoria Miro presents the first of two exhibitions at the gallery this autumn by the celebrated American artist Kara Walker.

Often provocative and humorous, Kara Walker's work explores the tensions and power plays of racial and gender relations. Walker's work engages with historical narratives, particularly the experience of African Americans in the antebellum American south, and the ways in which these stories have been suppressed, distorted and falsified.

Drawing from art historical and literary sources, she creates and deconstructs scenarios that expose biases and prejudices, exploring the power struggles underlying personal and political relationships. Her work proposes alternative mythologies, and new ways of engaging with traumatic historical material. Walker is best known for her room-sized tableaux of cut paper silhouettes attached directly to the wall. She also works in painting, drawing and text-based work, and in recent years her practice has expanded to include light projections, film and video. One of her primary motifs is the silhouette, a visual form that has historically been associated with simplistic or exaggerated imagery, particularly caricatures. Walker uses this decorative style to create complex and sophisticated narratives, emphasizing and undermining the ways in which images and narratives can be subject to stereotyping.

For her first exhibition with Victoria Miro, Walker is producing a new body of work made with the gallery’s unique spaces in mind. In Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First Walker has drawn inspiration from the southern American city where she spent her teenage years. The centrepiece of the exhibition will be a cut paper installation and large scale photographic wallpaper piece, the latter made in collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Ari Marcopoulos. These works reference Stone Mountain, a park on the outskirts of Atlanta featuring the world’s largest exposed granite monolith, the surface of which features a partially completed bas-relief carving of Confederate generals on horseback.

The mountain and the park that bears its name have had a chequered history. In 1915 Stone Mountain was declared the spiritual home of the Ku Klux Klan; more recently it has become a theme park with a wild west train ride and popular laser shows. Walker’s work draws on the layered histories and associations of the site.

The Atlanta works will be complemented by Four Idioms on Negro Art, which addresses forms of representation that have a stereotypical association with ‘low’ art: Folk Art, Graffiti and Primitivism. Each monumental work shows the artist taking on the attributes of a specific visual language, simultaneously paying homage to and satirising the motifs and style of the given forms.

In a sketch outlining her conception of this body of work, Walker sets up the Idioms in contradiction to Four Desires: Conceptual Art Practice, Fine Art, Technical Mastery and Mind Boggling Scale, and suggests a parodic dichotomy between the form and intention of art based on gender, class, education and skill.

Walker was born in Stockton, California in 1969. She currently lives and works in New York. In the summer of 2015 the artist directs staging, set and costume design for a production of Norma at Teatro La Fenice, Venice, as part of a special commission by the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. Creative Time presented in 2014 the artist's large-scale public project A Subtletly at the Domino Sugar Factory, New York; in the same year, Walker curated the group exhibiton Ruffneck Constructivists at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Recent major solo exhibitions include presentations at the Camden Arts Centre, London (2013); Art Institute of Chicago (2013); Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2011); Fondazione Merz, Turin (2011); Cincinnati Art Museum (2010); Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga (2008); and Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle (2008). In 2007-2008 the artist was the subject of the major retrospective Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth. Her work is in the collections of major museums including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Tate, London; Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, Rome and Mudam, Luxembourg. Walker received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1997, the Deutsche Bank Prize in 2000, and the United States Artists Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008.

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