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BEST MUSEUM EXHIBIT Minneapolis 2007 - Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love

This first U.S. retrospective chronicles Kara Walker's metamorphosis from hip art star to bona fide contemporary master. Best known are her cutout silhouettes, which have been prepared for this show from original templates and attached to the gallery walls with a wax adhesive. (When the exhibition closes on May 13, each cutout will be destroyed and the template returned to its private collector.) But this show also includes numerous works in ink, gouache, watercolor, charcoal, and mixed media. Particularly stunning are Walker's large-scale figurative drawings, which place her squarely in the company of politically minded artists such as Honoré Daumier and Kathy Kollwitz. Many of her figures appear at human scale, making the often grotesquely violent and sexual content all the more macabre. Walker largely draws her imagery from the antebellum South: slaves and masters, pickaninny children, gothic architecture, and the pastoral countryside. But the artist's slant on racism, sexism, and violence has a relevance that carries over to contemporary experience, such as, say, post-Katrina New Orleans. The staff of Walker Art Center has installed signage warning of "mature content," but this exhibit's highly charged scenes look more like a P.R. nightmare—in one video, silhouetted figures perform fellatio. In this light, to say that Walker's work straddles the line between historical fact and fiction is to miss the point. Walker uses historical narrative as a point of departure into a disturbing world that knows no comforting truth.
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