Gender, Power, Repression, History and Sexuality


This week, The Camden Arts Centre brings to London the long overdue first major Solo Exhibition of Capable Artworks by the celebrated American, Kara Elizabeth Walker, titled Negress.

This critically acclaimed opening sets of a busy month for London’s art scene with October now becoming a London tradition for showcasing great art across the capital, led by the ever-growing juggernaut that is the Frieze art fair, now in its 11th Year.  In fact, Camden Arts Centre is part of the Allied Editions scheme now running in its third year at the Frieze, a collaboration between Camden Arts Centre, Chisenhale Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Serpentine Gallery, South London Gallery, Studio Voltaire and the Whitechapel Gallery. At a booth in Frieze London each gallery will feature a portfolio of limited-edition artworks that have been specially made and donated by the artists in support of each gallery’s exhibition and education programmes. I for one think these and many other initiatives for bringing art to the masses is a great way forward, especially for an industry that has been criticised in the past for being too elitist. There are a lot of artists that want to be seen or found. If you want to find authentic artwork for sale visit and discover more art. Will Kara Walker’s Art be featured at the Allied Editions booth? One will definitely hope so.

Walker’s Art is highly charged and meant to provoke and intimidate. For example, in her piece titled The Battle of Atlanta, a white man, a Southern soldier, is depicted raping a black girl while her brother watches in shock, a white child is about to insert his sword into a nearly-lynched black woman’s vagina, and a male black slave rains tears all over an adolescent white boy.

KW 13007Walker’s silhouette images work to bridge unfinished folklore in the Antebellum South, and her devilish childlike cuttings raise awareness on identity and gender issues for African American women in particular. However, because of her confrontational approach to the topic, Walker’s artwork is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Pop Art during the 1960s (indeed, Walker says she adored Warhol growing up as a child).

The show brings her acclaimed room-size tableaux of black cut paper silhouettes and intricate shadow works, which question and explore America’s underlying racial and gender tensions. Addressing full on the highly charged themes of power, repression, violence, history and sexuality.

Kara Walker arrives to the UK from the back of decades of controversy and shaking up the American art world. Walker debuted a public exhibition at the The Drawing Center in New York City in 1994. Her installation Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart “polarized the New York art world”.

In 1997, at the age of 28 Walker was one of the youngest people to receive a MacArthur fellowship. There was a lot of criticism because of her fame at such a young age and the fact that her art was most popular within the white community.

The Detroit Institute of Art removed her “A Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts” (1995) from a 1999 exhibition “Where the Girls Are: Prints by Women from the DIA’s Collection” when African-American artists and collectors protested its presence.

In response to Hurricane Katrina, Walker created “After the Deluge,” since the hurricane had devastated many poor and black areas of New Orleans. Walker was bombarded with news images of “black corporeality,” including fatalities from the hurricane reduced to bodies and nothing more. She likened these casualties to African slaves piled onto ships for the Middle Passage, the Atlantic crossing to America.

For this solo show Camden Arts Centre’s galleries have been filled with the process of her art from the large scale graphite drawings and videos to newly cut paper pieces which will be produced on site.

Negress runs from the 11th October – 5th January 2014, Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG

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