Kara Walker Exodus of Confederates from Atlanta from Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) 2005

  • Not on view

"These prints are the landscapes that I imagine exist in the back of my somewhat more austere wall pieces," Walker has said of her portfolio of fifteen monumental prints—one of the artist's first direct engagements with the type of historical material that informs her work overall. Walker's art typically incorporates cut-paper silhouettes, based on a form popular in the nineteenth century, which she installs directly on white gallery walls. For this print portfolio, Walker layered her silhouettes over illustrations she reproduced from Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (1866), a compendium based on materials from Harper’s Weekly, the most widely read periodical of the Civil War era. These illustrations, which provide insight into the racial injustices of the period, emphasize Walker’s overall objective: to investigate race, gender, sexuality, and oppression in the antebellum South and American Civil War period and to examine the role they play in the stereotypes of today.

In each print Walker sets up a dialogue between new and old imagery, masking certain details and bringing others into focus and expanding the narrative beyond the conventional telling of history. In this example her use of positive and negative space (a silhouette within a silhouette) spotlights an African American boy who is loading a caravan of white civilians ordered to evacuate following Confederate Army losses in Atlanta.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 257.
One from a portfolio of fifteen lithograph and screenprints
composition (irreg.): 28 9/16 x 33 11/16" (72.5 x 85.5 cm); sheet: 39 1/16 x 52 15/16" (99.2 x 134.4 cm)
LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, Columbia University, New York
LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, Columbia University, New York
General Print Fund and The Ralph E. Shikes Fund
Object number
© 2023 Kara Walker
Drawings and Prints

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