© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Kara Walker, American (Stockton, California born 1969)
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
sheet: 117.4 x 153.99 cm (46 1/4 x 60 5/8 in.)
framed: 124.3 x 160.7 x 5 cm (48 15/16 x 63 1/4 x 1 15/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lower left, graphite pencil, handwritten, in artist's hand: handwritten in graphite pencil at lower left: 16/40
  • inscription: lower middle, graphite pencil, handwritten, in artist's hand: handwritten in graphite pencil at lower middle: African/American
  • inscription: lower right, graphite pencil, handwritten, in artist's hand: handwritten in graphite pencil at lower right: Kara Walker '98
  • stamp: verso/lower left, ink, stamped: stamped on verso, lower left: Copyright 1998/Landfall Press Inc./329 w. 18th Street/Suite 601/Chicago IL 30316/
  • inscription: verso, lower left, graphite pencil, handwritten: handwritten in graphite pencil on verso, lower left: KW - 98 - 08
[G. W. Einstein Company, Inc., New York, New York], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, May 9, 2000.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund
© Kara Walker, Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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This linocut is representative of Kara Walker's enduring interest in the silhouetted figure as a means of addressing the sexually and psychologically violent history of race relations. Walker invented the silhouette, as she tells us, "to bring together a bunch of messy ideas"[Flash Art, v. 29, no. 191 (1996), 82]—presumably the "inextricably-knitted morass of brutality, shame, emulation, pride, greed, eroticism, ambiguity.." as one recent critic has termed the issues broached in her work [IRAAA, v. 14, no. 3 (1997), p. 15]. The silhouette seems well suited to the multivalences of Walker's art, as it is at once a form, a blank space, a solid, and in her particular usage, a binary of black and white. For Walker, the silhouette is foremost a "side-long glance...full of suspicion, potential ill-will, or desire. It's a look unreliable women give. The unreliable woman is the negress." [Flash Art, v. 29, no. 191 (1996), 82]. The stereotype of the hypersexualized "negress" is at the center of the print literally falling downward, mixing the kinetic—the block outlines form motion lines around the figure—with the stasis of a silhouette that reminds of the outline chalk drawings of crime scenes. Presumably, as the title 'African/American' implies, this central figure owes her fall to the social subjugation of minorities by the hegemonic whiteness of modern-day America, where representative space for the cross-cultural is limited or nonexistent. As in her larger installations that use similar silhouetted figures, Walker's formal use of a black/white contrast is a kind of heightened code of contemporary racial relations, where color and ethnicity come into yet sharper focus. Accordingly, the figure of the print has been emphatically ethnicized: she is endowed with dreadlocks and large nipples, wears a bracelet, necklace, and a grass skirt that dangles suggestively between her legs as a visual pun on pubic hair.
Exhibition History

Kara Walker: "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)", Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/06/2007 - 11/11/2007

Vision and Justice: The Art of Citizenship, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/27/2016 - 01/08/2017

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at