Mural-scale painting showing silhouettes of racial atrocities

Kara Walker: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection

  • This is a past exhibition

Kara Walker (b. 1969, Stockton, CA) has created a poignant body of work that addresses the very heart of human experience. Drawing inspiration from depictions of the antebellum South—testimonials of the formerly enslaved, historical novels, and minstrel shows—Walker has invented a repertoire of powerful narratives in which she explores notions of racial supremacy and historical accuracy, conflating fact and fiction to uncover the living roots of racial and gender bias.

Acquired from the Hammer’s 2008 presentation of her work, The Battle of Atlanta: Being the Narrative of a Negress in the Flames of Desire—A Reconstruction (1995) is a 12-foot painting in the round inspired by Walker’s interest in the popular cycloramas of the late nineteenth century, immense painting installations that often depicted major historical events, particularly Civil War battles. Recasting the famous battle of 1864 using seventeen paper cutouts, Walker builds an intricate diorama using the silhouette to cast shadows on conventional thinking about race representation in the context of discrimination, exclusion, sexual desire, and love.

This presentation is organized by Erin Christovale, curator, with Vanessa Arizmendi, curatorial associate.