Art History: Kara Walker

“Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart was executed by artist Kara Walker for his first New York exhibition in 1994. On display at MoMA for the first time in 2010, the piece inaugurated her signature medium–black cut silhouettes of caricatures of antebellum figures arranged on a white wall in uncanny, sexual and violent scenarios. In reviving the eighteenth-century cut-paper silhouette to critique historical narratives of slavery and the ongoing perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes, Walker has transformed the craft into a new type of epic history painting. In the work’s elaborate title, “Gone” refers to Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind, set during the American Civil Wsr. While Walker’s narrative begins and ends with coupled figures, the chain of traicomic, turbulent imagery refutes the promise of romance and confounds conventional attributions of power and oppression.”

Art by Kara Walker

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