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Kara Walker

Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)

Patricia A. Banks, John Stomberg and Elizabeth Young
Paperback, 54 pages

Throughout her career, Kara Walker has combined exquisite technique with biting social commentary. Her large-scale print suite Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) is considered by many to be her quintessential work in a multiple format and among the most important works in her oeuvre to date. In it she juxtaposes Harper’s version of the Civil War with images of her own that question the notion that slavery ended with the war. Her works insist that we reconsider the semi-official narrative and the true plight of both African Americans and omen during the conflict and beyond—an insistence that asserts the continuing centrality of race in our nation.

Beautifully drawn, and printed with rare skill, her prints vacillate between sumptuousness and fury. Images originally published as wood engravings are enlarged through lithography and become backdrops for Walker’s signature silhouettes executed in silk screen. The works were printed at the renowned LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies in New York. The exhibition celebrates the Museum’s recent acquisition of the complete 15-image suite of prints.

The original two-volume anthology, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, is a collection of images and essays intended by the editors to illustrate the history of that great struggle. It was first published by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry Mills Alden in 1866 after the war had ended.

Kara Walker's education includes an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Painting / Printmaking, and a BFA in Painting / Printmaking at the Atlanta College of Art. When she received the MacArthur Award in 1997 (three years after completing her MFA) she was one of the youngest recipients to date. She represented the United States at the Bienal de São Paulo in 2002 and has had numerous one-person exhibitions including a full survey at the Walker Art Center in 2007.