Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)
Kara Walker, Alabama Loyalists Greeting the Federal Gun-Boats, Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), 2005
January 25 - March 8, 2013
Reception: February 22, 4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Lecture: “Visualizing Emancipation: What did Freedom Look Like?” February 22, 6 p.m., Paul Recital Hall
Schmucker Art Gallery presents an exhibition of works of art by prominent contemporary artist and MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award recipient Kara Walker. Her suite of lithographs Harper’s Pictorial History (Annotated) on loan from the Middlebury College Museum of Art takes Civil War-era imagery as its subject to question issues of identity, history, sexuality and race, particularly in relation to stereotypes and historical perceptions of African Americans. Walker enlarges Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War, first published in 1866 to reinterpret and disrupt this celebrated document of American history. "These prints," Walker explains, "are the landscapes that I imagine exist in the back of my somewhat more austere wall pieces." Walker’s silhouettes of distorted, fragmented, and flailing black bodies subvert the original narrative of the Harper’s prints. Walker's silhouettes incorporate a new understanding of suffering, loss and horror absent from the nineteenth-century illustrations. Also on exhibit will be the original publication of Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (1866), on loan from Special Collections and College Archives, to serve as a comparative tool for reading the Civil War imagery in its original context.
Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California, in 1969. She received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991, and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. The artist is best known for exploring the raw intersection of race, gender, and sexuality through her iconic, silhouetted figures. New York Times art critic Holland Cotter has written, “Ms. Walker’s style is magnetic. Whether in large cutouts, or notebook-size drawings, or in films that are basically animated versions of both, her draftsmanship is excitingly textured — old-masterish here, doodlish there — and all of a piece. Brilliant is the word for it, and the brilliance grows over the survey’s decade-plus span.” Walker’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 1997, Walker received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award and was the United States representative to the 2002 Bienal de São Paulo. She currently lives in New York.
The exhibition and related programming will be held in conjunction with the Central Pennsylvania Consortium Africana Studies Conference. The exhibition is supported in part by the Gettysburg College Sesquicentennial Committee for the Commemoration of the American Civil War and EPACC.