Exhibition presents some 650 works from the past 28 years of Kara Walker's career

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Exhibition presents some 650 works from the past 28 years of Kara Walker's career
Kara Walker exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2021. Photo: Norbert Miguletz.

FRANKFURT.- With her wall-sized silhouette cutouts and large-scale sculptures, Kara Walker achieved world-wide renown. In a provocative and impressive way, the American artist interrogates racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression and violence in her works. At the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankurt, Kara Walker now presents her archive of drawings and permits extensive insights into her artistic cosmos for the very first time. The exhibition shows some 650 works from the past 28 years, along with a selection of the artist’s films.

Dr. Philipp Demandt, Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, emphasizes: “We greatly value Kara Walker for her trust in opening up her extensive archive of drawings to our visitors at the Schirn. It is an extraordinary opportunity to obtain unprecedented insight into the wide range of works by this great artist. Throughout her career, Kara Walker has posed burning, uncomfortable questions and thus created an oeuvre of relentless urgency. This exhibition also prompts visitors to engage, to endure. It concerns all of us—as individuals and as a society.”

In her drawings, Kara Walker shakes up pictures from history, examines racist power structures, stereotypes, and gender roles with radical openness and stark visual imagery. In doing so, she repeatedly makes reference to events and topics, both historical and current, from the transatlantic slave trade to the presidency of Barack Obama. The artist makes visible conflicts and trauma that are still felt today and deals unsparingly with the emergence of the collective American identity and her own personal one as well.

Kara Walker masterfully makes use of diverse styles, references, and techniques—from charcoal and ink to pastel chalk and crayon drawings. Her archive comprises drawings in the broadest sense: watercolors, sketches, studies, collages, silhouette cutouts, pages of text, diary-like notes, but also found materials such as advertisements and newspaper clippings. Most of the works being shown at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt were not initially created explicitly for the public and facilitate personal insight into the artist’s working process.

“The selection of works from her private archive of drawings and the decision regarding how they should be presented in the exhibition were both made by Kara Walker herself. The artist compares the psychological, emotional, and physical process of rediscovery with an ‘excavation.’ Central to her work is the search for identity as a woman artist in a history of art shaped by patriarchy and the white gaze, and also as a Black woman in the United States. The unfinished character of sketches and the potential openness of drawing in particular offer her an ideal free space for her artistic practice. In the works presented in the exhibition, what opens up is not any clear ascription, but rather a spectrum of aspects from which identity is constructed”, explain the curators of the exhibition, Dr. Anita Haldemann, Kunstmuseum Basel, and Katharina Dohm, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.

An exhibition by the Kunstmuseum Basel in cooperation with the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and De Pont Museum, Tilburg. Consulting for the exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt by Contemporary And (C&).

The exhibition Kara Walker: A Black Hole is Everything a Star Longs to Be is supported by the City of Frankfurt am Main and the Friends of the Schirn Kunsthalle e. V.

A catalog edited by Anita Haldemann has been published in an English and German edition with prefaces by Philipp Demandt, Josef Helfenstein, and Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen and contributions by Maurice Berger, Aria Dean, Anita Haldemann, and Kara Walker. All works are reproduced in color.

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