From Black Voices – Kara Walker has never been one to shy away from controversy, and as her latest work will attest, the artist is not afraid to make audiences uncomfortable either. With two shows running concurrently in New York City — ‘Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale’ at Lehmann Maupin Gallery; ‘Dust Jackets for the Niggerati- and Supporting Dissertations, Drawing Submitted Ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker’ at Sikemma Jenkins & Co – Walker is once again flooring audiences with pieces that bring to mind the country’s difficult history with slavery and racism.
At Lehmann Maupin, the exhibit centers on a 17-minute shadow puppet narrative about Miss Pipi, a white Southern woman who lures one of her husband’s slaves into a tryst, though the young man attempts to resist. “Of the videos I’ve done, I’ve never focused or thought about the mythology around the white Southern female body,” said Walker, who has incorporated film or video into her shows since 2004. “I was thinking about that caricature of white feminine purity, added to that, scenes of sexuality, desire, co-optation, love and the ease with which the body and all of those kind of goals can be destroyed.”
The word “destroyed” is an apt description of what happens to all of the characters lives in the film. It is classic Walker – heart wrenching, eye opening and honest.
The Lehmann exhibit runs concurrently with Walker’s show at the Sikkema Jenkins & Co gallery. There, Walker shows a vast, 43-piece collection of graphite works on paper and hand-printed texts, a comic book-esque tale of black identity and the journey from its rural roots in America to the “New Negro” identity in urban areas.
For Walker, both shows are consistent with her reputation as an artist who shocks-and-awes her audience, and who holds nothing back when she tackles difficult subjects such as womanhood and racism.