Gallery Acquires Kara Walker Collage

Kara Walker, Untitled, ca. 1994

Kara Walker, Untitled, ca. 1994. Collage; cut and pasted paper with oil on fabric, 10 1/4 x 10 1/4 in. (26 x 26 cm). Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

This small but commanding collage by Kara Walker dates to about 1994 and is one of her first compositions to feature the silhouettes that have since become synonymous with her name. The intimate size and gemlike tones of this poignant collage imbue it with a visual power that draws the viewer in, only to reveal its difficult subject. It depicts two black female figures in silhouette emerging from a shack. One woman carries her own head—separated from her body—before her in her outstretched hands. Another follows, extending her right hand to sprinkle something, possibly flower petals, into the decapitated body or, perhaps, to offer a blessing over it. The black silhouettes stand out boldly against a colorful contemporary textile depicting a garden gathering of white aristocrats in a style evocative of French Rococo—an ironic contrast that speaks to Walker’s attention to the long and difficult histories of slavery and violence against women in America.

Kara Walker is internationally recognized as one of the most influential artists of her generation, and the Gallery has been collecting her prints and illustrated books since she first burst onto the national art scene in 1995. This work, however, is the first unique object by the artist to enter the collection, and is a recent joint acquisition by the departments of Prints and Drawings and Modern and Contemporary Art.

Elisabeth (Lisa) Hodermarsky

The Sutphin Family Curator of Prints and Drawings