Kara Walker Breaks Down the Influences Behind Her Bold New Work at the Tate Modern

Kara Walker's Fons Americanus

“I’m fascinated by the grandeur, the pompousness, the overmuch,” says Kara Walker. That sensibility fueled the American artist’s latest creation, Fons Americanus—a 13-meter-high fountain unveiled Sept. 30 in London’s Tate Modern museum. With a cast of characters and iconography reflecting the intertwined histories of Africa, Europe and America, Fons Americanus presents the brutality of slavery in a subversively joyful setting.

Walker is known for her ambitious work across mediums interrogating race, sexuality, slavery and identity; her 2014 installation A Subtlety was housed in Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory, attracting over 130,000 visitors to the main giant sphinx sculpture. Fons Americanus is Walker’s fourth site-specific work, and it references classical British artists such as J.M.W. Turner and William Blake, as well as African-American historical figures including Emmett Till and Marcus Garvey.

The artist was inspired in part by London’s Victoria Memorial, a towering, majestic monument to the Queen who commandeered the British Empire. “I just got this jazzy feeling,” she says. “I’m interested in ways allegorical figures are misrepresentative of the thing they’re meant to symbolize.” Tributes to empire in the U.K., like Confederate statues in the U.S., have come under scrutiny in recent years, as observers reconsider how frequently immortalized figures also played key roles in the oppression of others. “Public space creates the opportunity for misinterpretation,” says Walker. “In some ways, I think my work is a misreading of empire.”

The contrast between the fantasy and the reality, the big and the small, forms the basis for Fons Americanus: “This is about the story I could tell with my own hand, which is perhaps second-class, and unseen or unheard,” says Walker, “and the story that is larger than it ought to be, than it has a right to be.” And while some monuments to empire have been dismantled, Walker is …read more

Source:: Time – Entertainment


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