April 26, 2020

Jennifer McCabe on Kara Walker

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SMoCA staff members each chose an artwork from our collection exhibition Unapologetic: All Women, All Year to highlight. Director and Chief Curator Jennifer McCabe selected Kara Walker’s work Untitled (1998) to focus on and had this to say about her work:

“Kara Walker has long been an artist that I highly admire. She has boldly and consistently tackled difficult topics through her beautiful and haunting works. I love how she takes an intimate medium like the silhouette and explodes it to large-scale installations. Over the years, her practice has only grown stronger, like when she recently made the gigantic sugar covered sculpture in New York that responded to and reflected on the troubled history of sugar. She is contemplating material as much as concept in ways that captivate our imagination.”

About Kara Walker

New York-based artist Kara Walker is best known for her candid investigation of race, gender, sexuality, and violence through silhouetted figures that have appeared in exhibitions worldwide.

Walker’s major survey exhibition, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, was organized by The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where it premiered in February 2007 before traveling to ARC/ Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris; The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; and the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth. Recent solo exhibitions have been presented at the Art Institute of Chicago; Camden Arts Centre in London; and Metropolitan Arts Center (MAC) in Belfast.

During the spring of 2014, Walker’s first large-scale public project, a monumental installation entitled A Subtlety: Or… the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant, was on view at the abandoned Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Commissioned and presented by Creative Time, the project—a massive sugar covered sphinx-like sculpture—responded to and reflected on troubled history of sugar.

Currently, she has an exhibition at the Tate Modern, as part of the Hyundai Commission 2019, the Tate’s annual commission to create work for the famous Turbine Hall (Tate Modern is currently closed due to the COVID-19 crisis). For this Walker created a large-scale public sculpture in the form of a four-tiered fountain. Fons Americanus questions how we remember history in our public monuments. At the same time the work presents a narrative on the origins of the African diaspora. Click here to experience it online.

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