A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Thursday, November 15

Kara Walker at the Whitney

Yeah, I'm not convinced. The Kara Walker exhibition at the Whitney—My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love—has received the best reviews of the season: "Brilliant is the word for it," said the NY Times, to quote just one gush. But when Debbie and I went last Saturday, we were both remarkably unmoved.

Granted, Walker's old-fashioned silhouettes depicting all manner of slavery-era violence, oppression and degradation are undeniably striking spread out on these large, curved white walls. And I thought the room in which Walker projected colored light upon her figures added an interesting other dimension to her work. And Debbie liked the typed-out notecards, surrounded by the framed collage-y pieces.

But. Maybe it's the shapes themselves, all sort of feathery and curlicued, that didn't grab me. Or Walker's use of the plantation as a way to rattle our cages about latter-day racism that felt tired (as opposed to the Whitney's excellent, absolutely contemporary Lorna Simpson exhibition last year). Or perhaps the relentless, deliberate crudity of the imagery was ultimately a turn-off, as if the viewer (in this case, me) wouldn't get it if there were any subtlety to the work.

Anyway, if Walker's style resonates, then by all means see the show. But if, like I was, you're feeling skeptical going in, I promise you it's OK to skip it.

Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love is at the Whitney Museum of American Art through February 3. Admission is $15, except on Friday evenings, when it's pay-what-you-wish.

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Blogger Justin said...

I've been lurking around reading your blog for a couple of months now, and I must say this is the first time I've disagreed with your assessment of an exhibit or restaurant. I saw this exhibit when it opened at the Walker in Minneapolis and loved it. It seems (by your description) that the work translates well to the space at the Whitney. I should probably check it out for myself, but I am a big fan of Ms. Walker's work. I think that the 'crudity' of her images is actually a clean simplicity that isn't interrupted by a bunch of frills. But as you say, to each their own. Keep up the good work, I love reading it!

10:48 AM, November 16, 2007

Blogger Cortni said...

I agree with you. But I was completely disgusted with the exhibit. I had my kids with me and even though we avoided the part of the museum with the exhibit, there was a section that was completely exposed to the other exhibits as you walked by. I will never take my kids to that museum again.

5:21 PM, September 28, 2008


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