Exhibition dates: March 21 – August 6, 2006
Exhibition location: Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, mezzanine level
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, contemporary American artist Kara Walker (b. 1969) – widely recognized for her explorations of issues of race, gender, and sexuality through the 18th-century medium of cut-paper silhouettes – has selected a variety of objects from the Museum's collection and from her own work in order to explore, in her words, "the banality of everyday life, water, and its impact." The exhibition, entitled Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge, will be on view from March 21 through July 30.
Taking her cue from J. M. W. Turner's Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On,1840) and Winslow Homer's sensitive depictions of Black life in 19th-century America, Walker's aim is to address both "the transformative effect and psychological meaning of the sea" and the role assigned to Black figures represented in art. The narrative created through the combination of these disparate images gives rise to a foreboding sense of doom.
In her work, Walker unleashes the traditional medium of silhouette directly onto the walls of the gallery, creating a theatrical space in which her unruly cut-paper characters cavort, with one foot in the historical reality of slavery, and the other in a fantastical, nightmarish space that suggests the world of romantic novels.
"This show is not simply about the American South or Hurricane Katrina, although it was inspired by the effect of the chaotic storytelling that erupted in the media during the long, ugly aftermath," commented Kara Walker. "I pieced this show together as an attempt to think about visual representations of Black life, in particular, but not exclusively, as it is shaped and transformed by external forces such as the sea, the slave trade, and the failure of retaining walls."
Among those works in the Metropolitan's American art collection that Walker will incorporate in the exhibition is The Gulf Stream, 1899, by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), which was based upon studies made during Homer's two winter trips to the Bahamas in 1884–85 and 1898–99. The work depicts an African-American male adrift on his rig in stormy seas, surrounded by sharks. A rigger on the horizon of the painting perhaps denotes hope of salvation. The Deluge towards Its Close, ca. 1813, by Joshua Shaw (1777-1860) will also be included.
Ms. Walker was born in Stockton, California. She received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. A 1997 recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award, Walker was the United States
representative to the 2002 São Paolo Biennial in Brazil. Walker currently lives in New York where she is on the faculty of the MFA program at Columbia University.
Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge is organized Kara Walker at the invitation of Gary Tinterow, Engelhard Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan's Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art. It is the second in a new series of installations developed by the department to feature the work of contemporary artists. In fall of 2005, the Museum presented Tony Oursler at the Met: "Studio" and "Climaxed."
A variety of education programs will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition. Information regarding these related programs, as well as the exhibition itself, will be featured on the Museum's website (www.metmuseum.org).
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March 20, 2006