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Kara Walker, "Scene of McPherson's Death," from "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War," 2005; offset lithography and screenprint. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)

January 18 - April 5, 2018 Admission

Kara Walker creates challenging artwork that confronts the legacy of slavery in American culture. Since the late 1990s, she has been creating satirically subversive renditions of the pre-Civil-War South that challenge viewers to wrestle with lingering racial and gender stereotypes, caricatures, and myths. Walker is especially renowned for her large-scale, cut-paper silhouettes and narrative tableaus. This print series, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated),  marked the first time Walker united her trademark silhouettes with the type of historical documentation that influenced the development of her aesthetics.

“[Walker’s] interweaving of Southern antebellum nostalgia, Civil War iconography, and black racist stereotypes foregrounds the pervasive influence of Southern racial history, and the history of black representation, upon contemporary America.”

—LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies

Each of the large-scale prints in Walker’s portfolio began with an enlargement, using offset lithography, of a woodcut plate from the 1866 book Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War: Contemporary Accounts and Illustrations from the Greatest Magazine of the Time, with 1000 scenes, maps, plans and portraits. Each of the original images is overlaid by Walker with silhouetted figures rendered with solid black silkscreen. Walker uses a variety of strategies to break in, cover over, or otherwise intervene within the narrative of the woodcuts, usurping the images’ original dramatic and documentary purposes in favor of ones of her own invention.

Kara Walker is internationally celebrated for her work, and is known as the youngest person ever to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, which she did in 1997, when she was just 28. Since then, she has had her work exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, London’s Tate Modern, the Venice Biennale, and other venues around the world.