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'A Black Hole Is Everything a Star Longs to Be' Gives A Glimpse To 28 Years Of Kara Walker's Storied Career

Header Image: Kara Walker, "Barack Obama as Othello "The Moor" With the Severed Head of Iago in a New and Revised Ending by Kara E. Walker", 2019. Pastel, conté crayon, charcoal on treated paper. 221,9 x 182,9 cm. Courtesy of The Joyner / Guiffrida Collection, San Francisco, USA. © Kara Walker. Photo: Jason Wyche.

Kara Walker made a splash onto the art scene in 1994 with her room-sized installation of cut-out black silhouette. Often placed onto the white cubical rooms of the museum or gallery, her cutouts address racial issues like slavery. These stark images are how she became known to the rest of the world.

Exhibition view Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau. Photo: Julian Salinas

But like many artists, Walker’s works began as something different than the final products. Of her almost three decades of career, Walker has never revealed much of her thought process and what goes on before her silhouettes are pasted onto the walls. An exhibition in  Kunstmuseum Basel is looking to change that.

Featuring over 600 of her drawings, the exhibition ‘A Black Hole is Everything a Star Longs to Be’ becomes the first glimpse the outside world will have to the mind of Kara Walker. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Anita Haldemann, head of the Kupferstichkabinett. Alongside her sketches, Walker has created four new paintings for this exhibition. In line with the themes Walker often tackles, the new portraits feature former President Barack Obama and his legacy.

Kara Walker, "Untitled" from the 31-part series "Only I Can Solve This (the 2016 election)", 2016. Ink on paper, 26 x 18,1 cm. Courtesy of the archive of the artist, © Kara Walker.

The exhibition will also present Walker’s 38-part series,  The Gross Clinician Presents: Pater Gravidam. Alluding to the painting The Gross Clinic (1875) by the American artist Thomas Eakins, the series explores themes like The Founding Fathers of the United States, the exploitation of African-American bodies by medical schools, police violence against Black people, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kara Walker, "A Shocking Declaration of Independence", 2018. Gouache on brown paper, 57,5 x 38,1 cm. Courtesy of Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings), © Kara Walker.

A talented wordsmith as well as an esteemed visual artist, this peek into Kara Walker’s brilliant mind gives the audience an insight into why her works are as powerful as they are.

The exhibition was produced by the Kunstmuseum Basel and will travel to the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in the fall of 2021 and then to the De Pont Museum, Tilburg, Netherlands, in 2022.

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