Feb. 20 Art Minute: Kara Walker, ‘Freedom: A Fable’

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Kara Walker (American, born 1969), Freedom, A Fable: A Curious Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times. Edition: 4000; illustrated book with offset lithographs on paper and five laser-cut, pop-up paper silhouettes, 1997. Gift of David W. Steadman in honor of the Norton Family, 2000.33. Gallery 29

Kara Walker (American, born 1969), Freedom, A Fable: A Curious Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times. Edition: 4000; illustrated book with offset lithographs on paper and five laser-cut, pop-up paper silhouettes, 1997. Gift of David W. Steadman in honor of the Norton Family, 2000.33. Gallery 29

Freedom: A Fable is the first work by Kara Walker in book format and inspired by literary memoirs of former slaves or novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Similar to her murals, the artist here employs black paper silhouettes to narrate the history of southern American slavery in an ironic and provocative manner. Her paper cut-outs recall popular 19th-century portrait silhouettes, while at the same time subverting their typical function. In Walker’s version, the demeaning postures and exaggerated features of her figures call attention to negative stereotypes of African Americans often found in minstrel shows, novels, and art of the 19th and early 20th centuries and reveal the corrosive power of stereotypes and prejudice.


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