I’m composing a longer post (maybe up this weekend) on the Kara Walker exhibit I saw yesterday at the Whitney Museum here in New York. If you’re in the general vicinity, or plan to be before February, I strongly encourage you to see this exhibit.
In the meantime, here’s a link to a videoblog interview with the curator, Jasmil Raymond, with a preview to the same show when it was in Minnesota. Compelling, provocative, interesting use of visual images to challenge our thinking about racism. More later.
When I first walked into the Kara Walker exhibit I was overwhelmed by all the messages that the images fired out. I especially had to concentrate on the indiviual images in The End of Uncle Tom and The Grand Allegorical Tableau of Era in Heaven (1995). It really showed the multiple vulnerabilities of being Black during that time period. For example a cutpaper of an older woman giving birth in the fields by simply squatting down meanwhile pleading for freedom. The protrayal of a rich, white, fat American male holding a bloody sword with one hand stabbed into a black baby, as a sign of control and power, then standing on his side violently raping and watching the child being abused. Walker was able to display the beastily of the situation and the raw emotion of being trapped. Even though all the cutpaper art was the same color, it was easy to pick out which person was white or black because there was a repetitive display of blacks with the exaggeration of the nose and mouth distinctively protruded, and the cornrolls in their hair. Especially in the exhibit You Do (1993-1994) there was a shape of a black woman with these repeated features, a very curvy body, and a high butt as if indicating she was a sexual object. Furthermore in the Allegory (1996), a gouache on paper, there is an image of a white male holding a mini telescope up at a young black girl’s vagina exploring her area. At the same time another white male is looking away as if it’s not his business to interfere to stop this because this was “normal”. This is another example of how the males hypersexualized the black women no matter how dehumanising it was, because it was accepted in the culture at the time. There was certainly no place for a black women in society, because they were black and they were female.