Seeing the Unspeakable
The Art of Kara Walker
By (author) Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
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Seeing the Unspeakable by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Book DescriptionOne of the youngest recipients of a MacArthur "genius" grant, Kara Walker, an African American artist, is best known for her iconic, often life-size, black-and-white silhouetted figures, arranged in unsettling scenes on gallery walls. These visually arresting narratives draw viewers into a dialogue about the dynamics of race, sexuality, and violence in both the antebellum South and contemporary culture. Walker's work has been featured in exhibits around the world and in American museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney. At the same time, her ideologically provocative images have drawn vociferous criticism from several senior African American artists, and a number of her pieces have been pulled from exhibits amid protests against their disturbing representations. Seeing the Unspeakable provides a sustained consideration of the controversial art of Kara Walker. Examining Walker's striking silhouettes, evocative gouache drawings, and dynamic prints, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw analyzes the inspiration for and reception of four of Walker's pieces: The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven, John Brown, A Means to an End, and Cut. She offers an overview of Walker's life and career, and contextualizes her art within the history of African American visual culture and in relation to the work of contemporary artists including Faith Ringgold, Carrie Mae Weems, and Michael Ray Charles. Shaw describes how Walker deliberately challenges viewers' sensibilities with radically de-sentimentalized images of slavery and racial stereotypes. This book reveals a powerful artist who is questioning, rather than accepting, the ideas and strategies of social responsibility that her parents' generation fought to establish during the civil rights era. By exploiting the racist icons of the past, Walker forces viewers to see the unspeakable aspects of America's racist past and conflicted present.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780822333968
(5983mm x 3971mm x 13mm)
Imprint: Duke University Press
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publish Date: 6-Dec-2004
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Represent, Hardback (March 2015)
A publication that highlights nearly 140 objects in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that were created by American artists of African descent.
Barbara Chase-Riboud, Hardback (November 2013)» View all books by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Born in Philadelphia and living and working between Paris and Rome, Barbara Chase-Riboud is an internationally celebrated visual artist, novelist and poet. This publication focuses on her monumental series of sculptures dedicated to the assassinated civil rights leader Malcolm X. It also presents a chronology of Chase-Riboud's life and career.
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Author Biography - Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Her website provides more information about the author.
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