The Ecstasy of St. Kara is the debut exhibition of Kara Walker's new body of large-scale works on paper, organized by the CMA in close collaboration with the artist.
The drawings stem from Walker's consideration of monuments and notions of permanence and impermanence following her massive public art project, A Subtlety (2014), in Brooklyn. Influenced in part by a recent residency at the American Academy in Rome, the exhibition is an extensive examination of how Walker envisions the rise and fall of society. The installation will feature two dozen never before seen drawings, many of which reach monumental proportions, as well as two unique works on paper made through collagraphic printmaking. The Ecstasy of St. Kara is on view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery from Sept. 10 through Dec. 31.
"With her new series of large-scale drawings, Kara Walker continues to challenge us to look closely at the blind spots in history and our current society. At the same time, the lens through which Walker critically examines racial stereotypes has shifted to a broader historical and cultural context", says Reto Thring, curator of contemporary art and co-curator of the exhibition.
"Walker has long been one of the most innovative voices in contemporary art," said Beau Rutland, associate curator of contemporary art, and co-curator of the exhibition. "Her work remains vital for its ability to speak to current-day politics surrounding racial injustice by questioning historical fact and fiction."
The Ecstasy of St. Kara homes in on Walker's use of drawing, which she has employed throughout her career. A skilled draftsman, these new drawings offer an incredible level of detail, in line with her characteristic blend of realism, fantasy, dark humor and tragedy. Walker also focuses on conflicts in recent history including the Black Nationalist-supported Republic of New Afrika in 1968, as well as the 1985 police-sanctioned bombing of the west Philadelphia compound of MOVE, an activist community of black separatists. Such artworks thoughtfully build awareness of atrocities that may have already faded from memory.
The Ecstasy of St. Kara will be accompanied by a catalogue produced by the Cleveland Museum of Art. A unique collaboration between Walker and her partner, acclaimed artist and filmmaker Ari Marcopoulos, the publication will feature intimate photographs of Walker at work taken by Marcopoulos as well as a text by Walker in which she bridges her new drawings with current events and explains the influence of the residency in Rome on her new work. An introduction written by the museum's co-curators Reto Thring and Beau Rutland will contextualize the importance of this latest evolution within Walker's oeuvre and medieval scholar John Lansdowne and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith will each contribute a new work. In addition, Walker has written a text situating this body of work within today's political climate.
Support for the catalogue is provided in part by the Contemporary Art Society of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
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