Kara Walker

American (Stockton, California, 1969)

Although she studied painting and printmaking at the Atlanta College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design, Kara Walker is best known for her large-scale, cut-paper installations.

Her silhouettes are a direct reference to a popular art form of the nineteenth century, coincident with slavery. Their violent, often sexual imagery is drawn from folk, literary, and visual traditions. Typically arranged as a series of nonlinear narrative vignettes, they retell the history of racism in America.

The traditional rendering of silhouettes in black and white also reflects racism's visual component. While evoking the past, they efface individual details to create figures that are both stereotypes and archetypes. The artist explains, "The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that's also what the stereotype does. So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked. Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot of people can understand it, the other side of this is that it also reduces difference, reduces diversity to that stereotype."

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

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