Artifacts, Remnants, and Effluvia
EXCAVATED from the Black Heart of a negress.
The installations of the Afro-American artist Kara Walker, who was born in 1969 and lives in Rhode Island, have been shown in various group exhibitions in Europe over the last several years. Especially for the Kunstverein Hannover, the artist creates a parcours with life-size black silhouettes, colored light projections, drawings and texts.
Her pictorial narratives unfold along the walls of the exhibition space set in the American south before Civil War and are linked with motifs from the history of slavery. Blacks and Whites in historical costumes populate the scenes which at first seem reminiscent of fairy tales from the Biedermeier period.
A second look reveals, however, grotesque and bestial actions of sex and violence. Walker’s stage-like and finely contoured images portray the ambigous shadow worlds between seduction and drama, between ornament and abstraction. They aim subversively and razor sharp at the heart of our stereotypical fantasies.
Conceived especially for the Kunstverein Hannover, Kara Walker has realised primarily new works made in situ. At the center of this exhibition parcours are silhouettes which fill up the entire wall space in five of the seven rooms. Room-filling scenarios utilizing intensive colored light projections and black profiled silhouettes flank the central hall lite by daylight, for which the artist developed for the first time a figural frieze with mainly black but also some white silhouettes on black walls. Over and above this Walker shows colorfull gouches and texts typed on index cards, which in part are reminiscent of diary entries. In addition there are many wall texts – illuminated like spotlights – containing thesis-like statements of “Many Black Women”, which provide the name of the silhouette installation. With these generalized formulations on contemporary black women Walker seemingly provides hints as to the apparent meaning of her pictorial cycle. But like her visual narrations Walker dresses these texts in the costumes of factuality in order to formulate with these somewhat absurd thessis her scepsis on asserted truths.