Renouncing the sensitivity that often shrouds the subject, American artist Kara Walker’s work critically and unapologetically interrogates underlying racial and gender tensions. Through characters drawn from American popular literature, culture and history, she exposes the myths that lie beneath cultural archetypes and the darker aspects of human behaviour.
Walker’s new work, currently covering the walls of Camden Arts Centre, reflects her research into the White Supremacist movement and gun culture in the US. Peopled with subjects from both past and contemporary history, the work weaves together historical documents of slavery with more recent racial issues.
Connecting all of the work is an examination of power, racial myths and stereotypes. Using graphically simple and traditional media, Walker articulates suffering and violence within American history that continues to resonate in society today.
As part of ‘Demons, Yarns & Tales’, an exhibition by Banners of Persuasion, founders Christopher and Suzanne Sharp commissioned Walker to design a hand-woven tapestry. Innocently titled ‘A Warm Summer Evening in 1863′, Walker’s tapestry is based on an engraving first published in a newspaper; it shows rioters burning and looting an orphanage for coloured children in New York. As the flames take hold, black children flee the building only to be met by an angry mob. The scene is partially hidden by the silhouette of a hanged woman – the victim of a lynching.
Hand woven in the aubusson tradition, every flicker of fire and puff of smoke is translated in perfect detail along with the crude marks made by the engraving tool.
Click here to discover more about Kara Walker and Banners of Persuasion.