Born in 1969 in California and growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Kara Walker knew at a very early age that she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps and become an artist. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art where she focused on painting and printmaking and received her MFA from RISD in 1994. In 1997, Walker became the youngest recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award at the age of 27. Walker employs the traditional practice of cutting paper silhouettes to create large canvases, sculptures, even videos featuring her silhouette puppets, showing what initially appear to be pretty, pleasant images, but after closer inspection, actually depict graphic and disturbing "scenes of misogyny, racism, and violence." According to the show's press release, "Walker's imagery references the history of slavery and race in America."
I love cut paper silhouettes and am often wowwed by the intricacies and handiwork of well-executed cut paper pieces. I also love works that appear to be innocuous and inoffensive (whether visual art or music) but actually camouflage a deeper more sinister and troubling meaning. Kara Walker's works achieve all these points with tremendous effect. Her vivid and powerful art focuses on important issues and leaves a lasting impression. Learn more about Walker at Walkerart.org (where My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love was also exhibited) and at Whitney.org.
Mark Bradford also had a solo show at the Whitney in 2007 titled Neither New nor Correct. Born in 1961 in Los Angeles, California, where he is still based, Bradford worked at his mother's beauty shop until he got his big break just a few years ago. He received both his BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from CalArts. Like Walker, Bradford explores "societal and cultural issues" through his intricate, abstract works made from "found paper from billboards, posters, and magazines that he finds on the streets around his Los Angeles studio, which he then layers and manipulates to create painterly compositions." While Walker's work primarily focuses on historical references, Bradford finds inspiration from his contemporary Los Angeles neighborhood.
After an unsatisfying first show at the Whitney's Altria space in 2003, Bradford was not invited to contribute to the museum's 2004 Biennial. After encouragement from Eungie Joo, the curator for the Bounce exhibition at Redcat Gallery that featured his piece Los Moscos, that painting and others by Bradford were featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial where he received the Bucksbaum Award - "a $100,000 prize given to one Biennial participant" (New York Magazine). Bradford will receive the mid-career retrospective treatment in the spring of 2010 starting at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio. The retrospective will travel to various institutions so be sure to catch it if you can. Learn more about Bradford at Nymag.com and see more samples of his work at saatchi-gallery.co.uk.
Read more about both artists and their joint exhibition at Sikkemajenkinsco.com.
Kara Walker, Thicket Parts 1 & 2, 2009
Kara Walker, 10 Years Massacre (and its retelling) #2 (of 3 panels), 2009
Kara Walker, 30 Strokes (four of eight), 2009
Kara Walker, Every Painting is a Dead Nigger Waiting to Be Born (set of 20), 2009
Mark Bradford, Untitled, 2009