As part of "ECHO: Sampling Visual Culture," a glimpse into the wide-ranging art of appropriation in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the entirety of Kara Walker's silkscreen series, "Emancipation Approximation," is on view in its own dedicated gallery. It is not to be missed.
Every time I think about Walker's work, which uses cut-paper silhouettes to weave a powerful and unsettling narrative about racism in the Antebellum south and its modern legacy, I come back to a penetrating review of that body of work by the Washington Post's Robin Givhan. It's worth reading and re-reading, to get a sense not only of the power of Walker's series, but what it says about our society today. Here's an excerpt:
Walker, whose work is the subject of a retrospective at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, doesn't approach racism with the detachment of a historian. But she is not the type to indulge in tearful catharsis or the egocentric bloviation that tends to flow out of the ubiquitous town hall meeting: Pass the mike and let me tell you how my suffering is worse than yours.
Walker concedes that point right away. Everyone -- black and white -- has suffered because of slavery's legacy. Everyone has baggage -- huge steamer trunks filled with issues of self-esteem, entitlement and disenfranchisement. But while making allowances for that, she also argues that the fallout from slavery is a tangled web of grotesquerie, violence and absurdity. And everyone -- white and black -- has some culpability.