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This collaboration between Mason Gross School of the Arts and the Zimmerli Art Museum provides a window into the working process of American contemporary artist Kara Walker and a cohort of Rutgers students, who together explore the history of the United States as a slave-owning nation and the shadows that it continues to cast over the 21st century.
Over the recent spring break, Kara Walker, Tepper Chair in Visual Arts, set off with the students on a pilgrimage to her homeland, Georgia, visiting charged sites in an investigation of stories and spaces that define the American South and its impact across the nation. Upon their return, the group immediately mounted their response—the immersive installation Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association. The exhibition acts as both a living memorial and cabinet of curiosities, incorporating found objects, ephemera, and personal observations from visits to local residences, historic sites, government offices, and cemeteries. Their organic and visceral documentation resulted in soundscapes, videos, photographs, spontaneous drawings, and mixed media assemblages. The installation provides a space for voices and stories that would have remained absent as the group attempts to “contribute to a more expansive and inclusive patchwork quilt of the Old and New Souths.”
Also on view, in the lobby, is Kara Walker’s An Unpeopled Land in Unchartered Waters: no world, beacon (after R.G.), savant, the secret sharerer, buoy, dread (2010), through June 23, 2017. This series of six prints provides an allegorical history of the movement of enslaved Africans and their descendants through both time and space. For the artist, confronting such difficult topics is a necessary first step to resolution: she tackles painful subjects in order to provoke thoughtful consideration of America’s past, present, and future. Walker’s intention in her work, and during her residency at Rutgers, is to “foster an environment of openness and maybe willingness to live with contentious images and objectionable ideas, particularly in the space of art.
Comparative Study of Segregated Grave Sites with Stonework and Crosses, 2016