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Kara Walker, Highlight of Philips’ New York Sale of Contemporary Editions

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Kara Walker’s work “Emancipation Approximation” portfolio (1999-2000) will be auctioned at Philips’ New York Sale of Contemporary Editions on April 29. The complete set of 26 screen prints is available for the first time and represents the artist’s iconic graphic project.

Cary Leibowitz, Philips Director of Contemporary Editions said, “Walker’s work always says quite a bit, although she says it elegantly and quite minimally.” This collection of print works is no exception.

The set, which is based on a mural Walker first exhibited in 1999, is one of the artist’s pivotal works in print. Walker’s use of monochromatic black, white, and grey helps to introduce important overlooked themes regarding race and history with a rather graceful nuance. In the series, she successfully uses the traditional cut-paper silhouette to create a contemporary lens with which to focus on issues regarding power and identity, and its link to concerns today.

The juxtaposition between Walker’s use of pastoral imagery to portray graphic realities, references stories from African-American folktales as well as Greek Mythology. The artist recalls how silhouettes, like stereotypes, use limited information to create simplified ideologies. While there is no concrete narrative to the series, Walker successfully creates a pictorial language that transcends formalized storytelling. This pictorial language creates fluidity and balance within the work. Her work, much like one of her influences, Andy Warhol, aims to break down established ideas using complex intellectual humor and subversive material. While this helps to create the occasional controversy, the work speaks for itself and conveys an important message.

“The Emancipation Approximation” portfolio (1999-2000) can be previewed through April 29 at Phillips (450 Park Avenue, New York), or online here.

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Kelly Wearstler

THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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