new-york

Kara Walker

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

One does not “enjoy” a Kara Walker show, and this is odd because she is an enchantingly skillful artist. She slogs through a swamp of race, history, trauma, and desire, which is hard enough, then pirouettes along a tightrope between grotesque stereotype and idiosyncrasy, which is even trickier. To engage such material—to embarrass and even offend audiences and to ensnare the eager critic in contradiction and multiple meaning—adds up to an ambitious enterprise. But Walker has for almost a decade met the challenge with the unwavering ludic rage characteristic of great social satire.

The work demands direct address to its political significations. And yet Walker’s sensibility is profoundly formal; she’s obsessed with unimpeachably neutral issues like line, texture, scale, color, and the way text inflects image. Her recent show was titled simply “Drawings,” suggesting that the relative consistency,

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