Kara Walker: Virginia’s Lynch Mob and Other Works

Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, September 15, 2018 to January 6, 2019

Review on Hyperallergic

Kara Walker is a leading contemporary artist best known for her innovative use of the silhouette form. Kara Walker: Virginia’s Lynch Mob and Other Works seeks to contextualize the monumental wall installation Virginia’s Lynch Mob, a recent major acquisition of the Montclair Art Museum.

Walker explores issues of race, gender, sexuality, and violence in American history and contemporary culture in all of her works. Virginia’s Lynch Mob, as the centerpiece of the show, is a nearly 40-feet-long, cut paper work that uses her iconic silhouette form to depict a lynching about to happen. The piece invokes the brutal racial violence of American history to reckon with its ugly truths. Walker maps multiple elegant, imposing, life-size figures into scenes of brutality that draw audiences inside of the trauma. It will be displayed on a curved wall, enhancing the immersive experience of the life-size figures and referencing 19th century panoramic paintings.

This exhibition provided audiences with context for both the breadth and depth of Walker’s artwork by presenting a sampling of the different media in which she works. The 24 works span from 1997, the year in which Walker won a MacArthur Genius grant, to the present, with a maquette of The Katastwóf Karavan, the artist’s contribution to the recent Prospect 4 in New Orleans. The diversity of Walker’s artistic practice is highlighted with selections from the lithograph series Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (2005); The Emancipation Approximation (Scene #18), a screenprint from 1999–2000; the 1998 linocut African/American; an additional 1998 cut paper piece Consume; Testimony, a short film and photogravure stills (2005); Freedom, a Fable a 1997 pop-up book; and drawings such as two works from the Negress Notes series (1997) and Sketch for an American Comic Opera with 20th Century Race Riots (2012).