Kara Walker

Artist continually asking questions of America’s racist past and present

‘Racism is the real bread and butter of our American mythology’, said the New York-based artist in a statement to accompany her show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co that went viral last year. This February her performative sculpture Katastwóf Karavan, a steam power calliope decorated with the artist’s trademark silhouettes and playing songs of ‘black protest and celebration,’ belatedly appeared (following a dispute about costs) at Prospect.4 in New Orleans, while in April Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale (2011), which has lost none of its extraordinary power to shock and provoke, went on display at Sprüth Magers, Berlin. By the end of the year she had picked up SFMOMA’s Contemporary Vision Award for a body of work that has, since the 1990s, ‘challenged pre-conceived notions of race, sex and representation through contemporary visual art’. That she continues to do so, while inspiring others along the way, seems more important than ever now that the American Dream is falling apart.