The US artist Kara Walker will create the next Hyundai Commission (2 October – 5 April 2020) in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall this autumn. The cathedral-like space has previously hosted works by artists such as Olafur Eliasson and Doris Salcedo.
California-born Walker is renowned for exploring racial issues through her paper cut-outs, which she began making in 1993. Her first large-scale wall-based silhouette work Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart (1994) depicts a scene set in a plantation in the American South.
In 2011, she told Art in America that “the primary situation in my work is that of the African-American telling her story”. In 1998, the Tate purchased the large linoleum silhouette called The Keys to the Coop (1997) which features a young girl holding the head of a chicken. The critic Richard Martin wrote in 2015 that “Walker’s depiction of a chicken may allude to how that animal has commonly been perceived as a favoured food for black people in the United States”.
A series of the artist’s works on show in 2013 at the Camden Arts Centre in London focused on the white supremacist movement and gun culture in the US. “[Walker’s silhouettes] form a tumbling frieze of sex, violence and absurd imagery, unmistakably harking back to the pre-civil war Deep South, but also sardonically lampooning gun use in America today,” wrote critic Ben Luke in the Evening Standard.
Early in 2014, Walker’s sculptural installation A Subtlety, a 10-metre-high mammoth sugar-coated sphinx with African-American features, drew more than 130,000 visitors to the disused Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn. The work was a tribute to slaves whose forced labour powered the sugar industry.
The privately run Broad Museum in Los Angeles owns eight works by Walker including a piece made of laser-cut steel entitled Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching (2006). Meanwhile, a survey exhibition of Walker’s work opened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2007 and travelled to Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
Source: The Art Newspaper
Image: A Subtlety (2014) © Kara Walker