Known for her intricate cut paper silhouettes depicting disturbing scenes of violence and racism, Kara Walker's new body of work consists of a series of graphite drawings and hand-printed texts on paper. Dust Jackets for the Niggerati-and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker, on view at Sikkema Jenkins, was inspired by the artist's "search for understanding of the way that power asserts itself in interpersonal and geopolitical spheres," (from the press release).
Exploring the African American experience of migrating from the south to the north, from the country to the city, Walker uncovered "a cycle of destruction and renewal that is embodied in the move... as well as the destruction of an 'old' Black identity and the emergence of a 'New Negro' identity." Of course most people experience a transition when they move to a very different and new environment, but the subjects in Walker's work also leave behind a dark, oppressive history marred by slavery and racism.
In collaboration with Sikkema Jenkins, Lehmann Maupin's Lower East Side space is screening three new video works by Walker. Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale, the title of the exhibit and the show's centerpiece, is a shadow puppet film which follows the heroine Miss Pipi in various scenes of beauty, violence, and sex. Miss Pipi, a white Southern woman, must be protected by the Mandingo stereotype— or the "presumed hyper-sexuality of black men." The video Levee casts a long, dreamy, meditative gaze on the landscape in Friars Point, Mississippi at sunset while Bad Blues is a short film showing the artist singing a funny diddy about a black woman having "The Blues." Walker states that these works were inspired by her trip to the Mississippi Delta where she visited "thinking about the terrors of Jim Crow and slavery, yet the silent indifference of the landscape and the economic stasis, lack of mobility, and the persistence of a racist memory in the area was what stuck." Walker delivers thoughtful, intelligent, powerful works that tackle troubling themes that many would rather ignore or forget. Learn more at Sikkemajenkinsco.com, Lehmannmaupin.com and see my 2009 post on Walker here. Through June 4th.
Clockwise from top left: A Dream Deferred; Kiss; The moral arc of history ideally bends towards justice but just as soon as not curves back around toward barbarism, sadism, and unrestrained chaos, 2010