Sikkema Jenkins & Co. is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by Kara Walker, featuring the narrative film Prince McVeigh and the Turner Blasphemies, and a selection from Book of Hours, a continuing series of works on paper. The exhibition will be on view October 29 through December 18, 2021.
Prince McVeigh and the Turner Blasphemies is a 12-minute stop-motion animation that subverts and reframes the visual presentation of modern American mythmaking. Walker’s cut-paper silhouettes reenact several of the most gruesome and infamous acts of white supremacist violence in the country’s recent history, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh and the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr. Inspired by the saturation of white supremacist rhetoric within the mainstream political discourse of the past four years, the film’s creation found prescient relevance during the January 6 insurrection on the US capitol. Prince McVeigh and the Turner Blasphemies is an unflinching interrogation of how radical figures and ideologies ingratiate themselves within the national consciousness.
The title references the 1926 feature film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, by the German director and pioneer silhouette animator Lotte Reiniger, and The Turner Diaries, a 1978 fiction novel describing a race war and the eventual mass extermination of all non-white peoples across the world. The Turner Diaries has been noted as one of the most influential texts within contemporary far-right extremist movements and was cited as inspiration by McVeigh himself. The expansive score was composed by Minneapolis-based musician and artist Lady Midnight to encompass a variety of genres. The shifting orchestrations of marching band, ragtime, soul, and rock melodies intensify the narrative’s propulsive, cinematic tone. Walker’s film is a subversive response to the idealized conceptions of nation building and the presumed consistent upward progress of justice; Prince McVeigh and the Turner Blasphemies illustrates how the reverberations of history maintain, reproduce, and amplify systems of oppression and structural violence within the present-day.
The ongoing Book of Hours series encompasses several suites of works on paper, with the first produced in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. The title of the series bears multiple meanings, in reference to the devotional books of the Christian tradition, the near-surreal passage of time amid the pandemic, and the time Walker devoted to the act of drawing itself. In graphite, watercolor, gouache and sumi-e ink, the drawings illuminate the force of entropy of our current moment, and the constant blurring of reality and myth. Yet for Walker, drawing is an act of hope; a dedication of attention, an intimate gesture of making against the constant unmaking of coherency and logic within the world around us.
Born in Stockton, California in 1969, Kara Walker was raised in Atlanta, Georgia from the age of 13. She studied at the Atlanta College of Art (BFA, 1991) and the Rhode Island School of Design (MFA, 1994). She is the recipient of many awards, notably the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award in 1997 and the United States Artists, Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008. Walker is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (elected 2012) and American Philosophical Society (elected 2018) and was named an Honorary Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2019. She lives and works in New York.
Walker’s work is in the collection of prominent museums and public collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the Kunstmuseum Basel’s Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings); the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), Rome; and the Deutsche Bank Collection, Frankfurt. Walker was selected by the Tate Modern for the 2019 Hyundai Commission. She responded with a large-scale public sculpture in the form of a four-tiered fountain entitled Fons Americanus. Directly alluding to the Victoria Memorial at Buckingham Palace, Walker’s sculpture stands as a “counter-memorial,” a playful yet incisive subversion of such monuments’ original public function within the context of European imperialist projects.
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