Known for her powerful, often humorously provocative work, American artist Kara Walker is currently on show at Victoria Miro Gallery, London, presenting „Norma“ – a selection of works that emerged around her latest opera production on the occasion of the 56th Venice Biennial.
Invited by Venice Biennial Director Okwui Enwezor, Kara Walker set designed, costume designed and directed „Norma“ a two-act operatic masterpiece of Vincenzo Bellini that was staged at the Teatro La Fenice for six performances between May and June 2015.
With history, art history and literature being the main sources of her artistic oeuvre this opera project was the perfect synthesis of a number of key aspects Walker is concerned with, among them unequal relationships, identity in context of oppression and the power plays of politics.
This exhibition assembles a selection of preparatory drawings, sketches and models related to „Norma“. The drawings and other studies show the artist’s detailed working process and – which is rarely seen – her versatile facilities with pastel and watercolour as well as her strong sense of palette that can go far beyond the rather restrained colour approach we usually see in her work.
It’s a refreshing and convincing presentation of different styles, techniques and compositions Kara Walker is offering while still maintaining her signature narratives of racial and gender related tensions, brutalising histories of colonialism and slavery and the psychological consequences that accompany violence.
Little surprise that Walker moved the action of her operatic sujets from Roman Gaul to an unspecified African colony under European rule in the late 19th century. Extending her engagement into the fields of drama, music and stage she employs her powerful language to retell and re-enact stories that have all to long been suppressed, distorted and falsified.
The show is accompanied by a fully illustrated book: „Norma“ Kara Walker, Victoria Miro, 2015. Featuring texts by the artist and by Hilton Als. Soft cover, ISBN 9780993179853, £20.00
Kara Walker „Norma“ Through 16 January 2016 Victoria Miro Gallery Mayfair London W1S 1FE victoria-miro.com