Kara Walker’s Testimony

A shadow-puppet silhouette of a person riding a horse. Two hands from offscene, also shadows, are manipulating the figure.
Kara Walker (American, b. 1969), Testimony [Figure on a horse with hands controlling the puppet], Photogravure on Hahnemühle paper, Purchase, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, 2009.25.5.

September 30–December 22, 2023

Kara Walker (b. 1969) is among the most important American artists working today. She first became known for creating satirical tableaux of black, cut-paper silhouettes, depicting the violence and sexual exploitation inflicted by white American enslavers on the Black people they enslaved, and inflected by the insidious endurance of racial and gender stereotypes in American culture. This exhibition features stills from Walker’s silent 16mm film, Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions (2004), in which her silhouettes come eerily to life. They are manipulated as shadow puppets, the hands of their puppet master often in full view. These scenes invite us to fill in narrative gaps through collective memory of a shared American history of human enslavement.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Hoene Hoy Photography Fund.

Vassar College

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