The Emancipation Approximation by Kara Walker, a suite of twenty-seven silkscreen prints and a gift from Brent Sikkema for the museum’s 10th anniversary, features the provocative silhouettes for which Walker is known. An allegory of the aftermath of the Civil War, the suite addresses the harsh realities of slavery and its continuing effect on American society and racial identity.
Walker’s first large scale silhouette mural, completed in 1994, established her as an important and divisive figure in contemporary art. Critics considered her portrayal of racial stereotypes and the subject of slavery as a perpetuation of negative black images. Though often the subject of public scrutiny, her work is an engaging provocation for all viewers to consider race, identity and personal perception.
While Kara Walker uses a traditional craft medium, the silhouette, to present contemporary social commentary, the black dolls from the Collection of Deborah Neff represent a craft tradition that also, in its own way, speaks to the history of race relations in the United States.