Kara Walker: Hyundai Commission

Tate. Apr. 2020. 160p. ed. by ed. by Clara Kim. ISBN 9781849766852. pap. $24.95. FINE ARTS
This compact volume documents the installation of Fons Americanus, a sculpture by contemporary American artist Kara Walker, on view at the Tate Modern, London, from October 2019 to April 2020. Walker’s art investigates themes of race, violence, and sexuality as they intersect historical narratives concerning slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. Fons Americanus is inspired in part by the Victoria Memorial in London, an Edwardian Baroque sculpture honoring Queen Victoria, completed in 1924. But Walker’s art seeks to tear down monuments as conventionally conceived to expose the sordid truth behind the official historical narrative, confronting the violence of the past obscured by the grandeur of public monuments. Maritime themes are a central motif in both Fons Americanus and the Victoria Memorial, but, in Walker’s sculpture, water and iconographic elements including sharks, drowning figures, and a host of mythical, historical, and art historical references merge to become an allegory of the catastrophe of “the Black Atlantic,” not so much commemorating history but, in the artist’s words, showing how she−and we–are consumed by history.
VERDICT With color in-process images as well as photos of the final installation, and essays by novelist Zadie Smith and Tate curator Clara Kim, this title is recommended for readers interested in art that explores issues of race, slavery, and history.
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