Pace Prints is pleased to present Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), a series of fifteen lithographs and screenprints. The portfolio was published by the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., both of New York. This is its first showing at Pace Prints.
Each of the prints in Walker’s portfolio began with an enlargement of a woodcut plate from editors Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden’s Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, first published in Chicago in 1866. Once enlarged, these illustrations were then printed using offset lithography. Finally, they were overlaid with Walker’s silhouetted figures, rendered in solid black silkscreen. Kara Walker is known for this silhouetting technique.
With Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), Walker turns what had formerly been quaint Victorian parlor art into fueled narratives about slavery, sexuality, violence, race and American culture. As a result of this stylistic choice, she is able to distill visions of the human form, thus identifying her figure’s race, class, age, and gender through caricature. Despite this being the artist’s first exploration including appropriated literary illustrations, Walker’s method of storytelling prizes vignettes of intertwined narratives.
Walker is interested in examining what she describes as our national pastime of “loving to hate what we hate to love.” She explores our collective shame of being attracted to images that are unfavorable to society. As Walker investigates the darker aspects of American culture and human psyche through the interactions and identities of her silhouetted characters, she simultaneously employs a sense of humor in her pieces. She satirizes the constructs of stereotypes as she stretches reality to its most extreme forms. As result, there is a tense struggle between fact and fiction in her work. Walker scrambles “truths” and amplifies events and identities which then present themselves as history lessons. She confronts the viewer with their own stereotypes and prejudices by forcing them to separate fantasy from reality and decide what is true.
Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. She is known for her candid investigation of race, gender, sexuality and violence through silhouetted figures that have appeared in numerous exhibitions worldwide.
Her major survey show, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, premiered at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN in February 2007 before traveling to ARC/Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; and the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth. She participated in the 52nd Venice International Bienalle in 2007 and was the United States representative to the 25th International Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil in 2002.
Walker is one of the youngest recipients of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award, which she received in 1997. She was also the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Prize in 2000 and United States Artists Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008. Her work is included in The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Tate Gallery, London; the Centro Nazionale per le Arti Contemporanee, Rome; and Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt. She lives and works in New York City.