Black Box: Kara Walker & Hank Willis Thomas
28 June 2017 - 18 March 2018
Salvation by Kara Walker, one of the most significant works in the BMA’s contemporary collection, and And I Can’t Run by Hank Willis Thomas, a recent promised gift to the Museum, start a critical conversation in the Black Box Gallery on slavery’s legacy.
Walker’s Salvation, 2000, is a complex consideration of African American and female identity within the tragic history of American slavery. The central silhouetted female figure is characteristic of Walker’s work, which collides racial stereotypes and violent scenes with the genteel tradition of cut paper silhouettes. In this example, the figure gasps, perhaps drowning, in a swamp. The work’s title Salvation could suggest the woman has taken to the water to escape her enslavement. A grim possibility is that a death by drowning offers the only salvation from the horrors she has experienced. The foreboding and haunting scene is heightened through dim lighting and shadowy layers of imagery generated by an overhead projector.
Image: Kara Walker, Salvation, 2000. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Friends of Modern Art Fund, BMA 2001.14. © Kara Walker.