Collection Artwork
Kara Walker (born Stockton, California, 1969)
The Emancipation Approximation [Scene 15]
screen print on Somerest 500G paper
image size: 44 x 34 in.
paper size: 44 x 34 in.
frame size: 44 7/8 x 34 3/4 x 2 in.
Gift of Michael Jenkins and Javier Romero
AP 5/5

Installation views

Object Label

“I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked. Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot can understand it, the other side is that it also reduces differences, reduces diversity to that stereotype.”
—Kara Walker

Kara Walker’s violent, disturbing narrative compresses time and place. She brings together references from her own life experiences and US antebellum documents and artifacts; the Greek myth of Leda and the swan, in which the god Zeus assumes the form of a swan to rape and impregnate the mortal Leda; silhouetting, a popular 18th- and 19th-century US art; Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation; the degrading humor of minstrelsy; the atrocities faced by people held as slaves in this country; and other material. In creating a new narrative mixing fact and fiction, Walker encourages us to examine our shared histories to better understand both past and present.

The silhouette form makes the viewer responsible for what is seen within and beyond the crisp black and white forms. In using only two colors for the imagined people and animals, Walker challenges binaries. Are certain figures immediately deemed “black” or “white”? What role do caricature and stereotype play in defining our understandings of racial identity?

From the exhibition: Beauty and Bite (July 20, 2019 – January 19, 2020)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

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Beauty and Bite
Pattern by Nathan Bloom ’21
Inspired by the performance Honey Baby in the exhibition Janine Antoni & Stephen Petronio: Entangle
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.