kara walker at the whitney

October 12, 2007 § 3 Comments

Black and White, but Never Simple

Published: October 12, 2007

Ms. Walker’s exquisite, implacable, loose-cannon retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art is about race first and last.

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§ 3 Responses to kara walker at the whitney

  • Christopher says:

    “I felt the work of Kara Walker was sort of revolting and negative and a form of betrayal to the slaves, particularly women and children; that it was basically for the amusement and the investment of the white art establishment.”
    –Betye Saar, African American artist

    “What is troubling and complicates the matter is that Walker’s words in published interviews mock African Americans and Africans…She has said things such as ‘All black people in America want to be slaves a little bit.’…Walker consciously or unconsciously seems to be catering to the bestial fantasies about blacks created by white supremacy and racism.”
    –Howardena Pindell, African American artist, at the Johannesburg Biennale, October 1997.

    All black people in America want to be slaves a little bit.
    –Kara Walker, as quoted by Jerry Saltz in a 1996 FlashArt piece

    Her blacks don’t resist aggression, or at least not in obvious ways. They seem to give in to it, let themselves be abjectly used, often by one another.
    –2003 NYT article by Holland Carter

    Kara Walker is not presenting a heightened reality of American slavery. Blackness is a concept that Kara Walker objectively debases. These images are visualizations of what Toni Morrison describes as the white subconscious Playing in the Dark. As such, they are a reflection of the psychosis of white supremacy. However, it is not a full critique of this mindset and may in fact justify this mindset. It is my opinion that she rationalizes and projects in her work, the psychosis of the white male mindset, without the guilt, in fact with total acceptence.

  • lara says:

    I disagree. I do not think that she objectively debases the lived reality or the concept of blackness. As she explains this is her imagination, her interpretation. This is not historical reality. I think that it is honest of her to portray even a guilty side of her that can relate to what you refer to as “the psychosis of the while male mindset.”

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