Simon Schama writes about Kara Walker in The Financial Times

Inspired by a new exhibition of American art since the 1960s, Simon Schama argues that art can still have a golden age. By Simon Schama

 

American nightmares are never very far away from the American dream. One image in the British Museum’s compendious and absorbing new show of prints from the 1960s to now embodies the perpetual national passion play of light and darkness with startling vividness. Ed Ruscha’s take on the Hollywood sign, pictured not from below but along the brow of its hill, makes it subside into the slope, shrouded in ambient twilight of a smoggy, sulphurous orange. Other images lurk devilishly on the dark side: Andy Warhol’s screenprints of an electric chair repeated in 10 shades like an interior decorator’s sample book — peach and azure, rose and slate — the artist claiming with his usual sly disingenuousness that multiplication dilutes the charge, when the opposite is true. Prettiness kills.

 

…Kara Walker turns the genteel form of the 19th century silhouette inside out for her images of sexually brutalising mischief inflicted on slaves by their masters. Her “No World” takes a sailing vessel, not unlike the one featured in Turner’s “Slave Ship”, and retains as well the image of a drowned body lost in the waves, but has a pair of black hands rise from the waters to raise the ship high above the swelling sea…

 

Read more

 

Image: Kara Walker, An Unpeopled Land in Uncharted Waters, 2010. © Kara Walker 

The Financial Times Posted 3 March 2017

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