This volume collects the documentation of the solo exhibition that the Fondazione Merz dedicated to Kara Walker, curated by Olga Gambari, from 25 March to 3 July 2011. The exhibition project included a review of films – a field of expression to which the artist is strongly attached – an international conference on the political and psychological dimension of racial stereotypes and a workshop with students from the Accademia Albertina and the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy at the University of Turin. In addition, the participation of journalist and writer Rebecca Walker enriched the debate on the concepts of race, class, culture and gender. Kara Walker, confronting the post-industrial space of the Foundation, presented cut papers in free evolution on the walls, a video-installation, drawings, collages and tempera paintings.
The project that involves the artist and that the book illustrates with a vast photographic and textual apparatus, is centred on the mythical memory that takes shape in her work, a memory in constant metamorphosis in which the biographical dimension is placed in connection with collective experience. A historical event such as the birth of the Afro-American community in the United States, linked to centuries of slavery and the subsequent difficult racial integration, becomes a material on which Kara Walker can draw for her figurative stories, playing on shadows and silhouettes. Her black silhouettes move in a visionary and metaphorical land, between day/night and light/dark. Fiercely realistic stories, allegories of black humour are represented in installations, videos, stage sets, puppets, kinetic shadows, wall drawings, collages on various supports, from wall to canvas. But also drawings, tempera, miniatures and large dimensions for dynamic stories that hover in a dimension where the grotesque verges on the dramatic. Kara Walker’s stories become myths, fairy tales, and although they have precise roots, they become universal narratives.