Artists are vigilant. But it's not the vigilance of surveillance. They don't dictate what is worn, thought, spoken and dreamed. Instead, theirs is a vigilance fueled by a heady mix of doubt, disbelief and hope. Few have managed to capture the collision between past and present, between histories and horror stories, between sexuality and shame, between skin and meat, as powerfully and provocatively as Kara Walker, 37.
Walker's vigilance has produced a compelling reckoning with the twisted trajectories of race in America. Her installations and films forcefully pluralize our notion of a singular "history." They create a profusion of backstories and revisions that slash and burn through the pieties of patriotism and the glosses of "color blindness." Restarting the engines of seemingly archaic methods, from the graphic affect of silhouette portraits to the machine-age ethos of film, she produces a cast of characters and caricatures with appetites for destruction and reproduction, for power and sex. She raucously engages both the broad sweep of the big picture and the eloquence of the telling detail. She plays with stereotypes, turning them upside down, spread-eagle and inside out. She revels in cruelty and laughter. Platitudes sicken her. She is brave. Her silhouettes throw themselves against the wall and don't blink.
Kruger is an artist who works with pictures and words
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