I have attended one of my favorite galleries of contemporary art Sikkema Jenkins & Co on September 15. The gallery presents an exhibition devoted to the most outstanding paintings by Kara Walker. The exhibition runs from September 7 to October 14, and that is enough to allow the wide audience see Walker’s paintings. There are twenty-nine original paintings presented at the exhibition. They are all different in size, technique, and stylistic approach provided by the author. Despite these differences, all paintings are linked by thematic background and unique charisma of the artist.
The exhibition is believed to be interesting to wide audience that can include students, collectors, scholars, and art historians. Press release of the exhibition states that all people can find something important attending Kara Walker’s exhibition. For instance, it is said that “parents will cover the eyes of innocent children.”These statements are justified by the unique thematic background that can be noticed in all paintings at the exhibition. They are similar and different at the same time, because they discuss important moral and social concerns, but present different ways to express these concerns.
The exhibition is organized effectively and competently to let the viewers see a rise of expression step-by-step. The space of the gallery is used rationally, so that the viewers feel comfortable and deeply involved in the theme of the exhibition. Twenty-nine paintings are hung on the walls and illustrate a coherent development of the main idea. White walls highlight the effectiveness of ink paintings and monochrome contrast of Walker’s works. Almost nothing can distract the viewer from the paintings. Peaceful atmosphere of the exhibition allows the visitors to look deeply inside own thoughts and feelings inspired by the artist’s message.
The exhibition is aimed at illustrating the attitude to African Americans and females in the USA today. The exhibition presents the latest paintings by Walker that have been drawn “over the course of the Summer of 2017.”All paintings are devoted to usual thematic background of Walker’s work. The paintings depict African Americans as the victims of endless white oppression, humiliation, and severity. Twenty-nine works show a coherent development of racial segregation in the USA from the time of the Civil War to modern period. Walker demonstrates that no matter what time to depict, African Americans are always oppressed and treated unfairly.
The black people are depicted as slaves before the Civil War period as in the painting number 1 in Illustrations’ section Libertine Alighting the World. This painting is huge and looks truly impressive because of size that is 241.3 cm in length and 182.9 cm in width. The painting is sumi ink and collage on paper, therefore, it is black and white in color. This technique is one of the most popular in Walker’s works, because it makes the artist’s message especially strong, effective, and straightforward. Walker uses only silhouettes of the figures in spite of depicting human body in a solid academic manner. This unique stylistic approach, however, makes the painting looks even brighter. There are no unnecessary details presented in the painting, therefore, it affects the viewers by its deep symbolic meaning.
The exhibition is especially interesting and significant, because it shows the artist’s development and progress. Ink silhouettes appear to be a well-known technique, used by Walker, and that has, in fact, made her style popular and easy to recognize. This exhibition, however, presents the new technical approach used by the artist. For instance, the painting number 2 Spooks is the first seen painting at the exhibition that is made by oil stick. Walker depicts the figures not as the silhouettes, but as the sculpted figures. As for the colors, the artist does not use black and white contrast colors as she usually does, but shows the shades of brown, black, and spots of the pure white. The subject matter of the painting is also interesting. It presents a naked black woman, who pleasures herself under the tree, and a white man, who is spying on her.
The painting Spooks has a deep religious background, because it presents, in fact, the new Eden with white Adam and black Eve left alone with themselves by God. Their life is not easy in the Eden, and they cannot always live in harmony, because they are still humans with natural desires, full of lust, envy, and jealousy. Walker presents a lot of paintings based on essential Christian concepts. These paintings include Christ’s Entry into Journalism, Slaughter of the Innocent, Alive not Dead, and Initiates with Desecrated Body. All these ink paintings strive to link Christian doctrines with modern life and demonstrate stereotypes and biases that still exist in human society. The paintings show inability of some Christian norms to explain racism and attitude to the blacks in the USA as well. Religious subject matter appears to be one of the most impressive at the exhibition.
The current exhibition in Sikkema Jenkins & Co is devoted to famous African American artist Kara Walker and her latest paintings made over the summer in 2017. The exhibition presents 29 paintings, most of them are made in ink and oil stick on paper and are huge in size. The paintings match the overall direction and subject matter of the artist, although some of them show the new technical and stylistic approaches within the new thematic background. Walker presents racist attitude to the blacks in the contemporary American society and Christian doctrines that are unable to stop this inequality and harshness.
- “Artist’s Statement.” Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Accessed http://sikkemajenkinsco.com/index.php?v=exhibition&exhibition=5970cdfe8fd13#null
- “Press Release.” Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Accessed http://sikkemajenkinsco.com/index.php?v=exhibition&exhibition=5970cdfe8fd13#null