Kara Walker's Art Shocks, Awes

Exhibit at the Whitney has 'nightmarish quality'
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2008 7:33 PM CST

(Newser) – American artist Kara Walker stirs up “a toxic stew of race, sex, power and history” with her work—now enjoying a retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York—exploding antebellum stereotypes about black bodies, Rosalind Cumming-Yeates writes in Ebony. The youngest artist ever to receive a Macarthur “genius” grant (at 27), Walker uses the period technique of silhouettes to trace slavery’s horrors.

Concerned with “what lurk beneath race relations,” the exhibit echoes in the present, too. Video of a silhouetted lynching contains audio of Walker and her daughter whispering, “I wish I were white"; another piece depicts a diary entry of a freed slave fondly remembering her captivity: “I am Lost.” The art's “shadows” underline an unacknowledged history, to deny resolution to implicated audiences.