Kara Walker is a multidisciplinary artist, best known for her large installations of paper cut out silhouettes. The history of the silhouette, much like the history of portraiture, comes from a long legacy of privilege and wealth that did not extend to racial minorities. Walker’s silhouettes are seemingly harmless, initially offering a false sense of security with their familiar pastoral landscapes and period clothing. Upon close examination, her work reveals brutal imagery originating from anecdotes of slavery in the antebellum South. The illustrated vignettes reference material such as slave testimonials and clinically de-humanizing historic documents. Walker’s silhouettes often cause extreme reactions of discomfort, dispelling the notion of the passive viewer. The artist, whose practice extends to sculpture and performance, scrutinizes the history of racial inequality and subjugation embedded in American culture.
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