Exhibition uses silhouettes to explore race, stereotypes

Kara Walker.Opening Sept. 11 in Tyler Art Gallery, “Kara Walker: The Emancipation Approximation Series” will use silhouettes to explore race and gender in America.

An opening reception will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in the gallery. The reception and exhibition will be free and open to the public. “The Emancipation Approximation Series” will run through Oct. 10.

In 26 large-screen prints, Walker uses her trademark silhouette format combined with visceral imagery recalling the antebellum South. Choosing a title referencing Abraham Lincoln’s slave-freeing act, the series is intended to make viewers think.

“There is a tendency to preach to the converted and reiterate themes of blackness,” Walker said. “In the new work, I wanted accessibility, something that was easily read and could operate on some sort of innocuous level to engage people—then I could pull the rug out from under them.”

At the forefront of the contemporary art scene, Walker is best known for her site-specific silhouette forms cut from black paper and mounted directly to the white walls of a gallery.

“The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does,” Walker has written. “So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked. Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot of people can understand it, the other side is that it also reduces differences, reduces diversity to that stereotype.”

The series of screen prints is based on the mural-sized installation of paper cutouts originally shown at the Carnegie International 1999-2000 exhibition in Pittsburgh.

The series is being lent by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. The local appearance is sponsored by SUNY Oswego’s African and African-American studies program, Auxiliary Services and Student Association Programming Board.

“The Emancipation Approximation Series” will open concurrently with “Getting Around: Transportation in the 1930s” and “Bartow + Metzgar: Spatio Geographica: An Experimental Archive of Human and Nonhuman Agents in North America.”

Tyler Art Gallery is open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information or for visitors needing accommodations to attend, call 312-2113.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Expressive silhouettes—Artist Kara Walker equates silhouettes with stereotypes in her “Emancipation Approximation Series,” which will open Sept. 11 in SUNY Oswego’s Tyler Art Gallery.

(Posted: Sep 02, 2009)

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