In a press release on March 11th, Tate Modern alongside Hyundai Motor announced that New York-based American artist Kara Walker will create the fifth annual Hyundai Commission for the Turbine Hall. The site-specific annual commission will be unveiled on October 2nd and run through April 5th of 2020.
Walker’s works have explored notions of race, gender, and sexuality often utilizing silhouetted figures in everything from drawings to prints, shadow puppets to projections since the 1990s. Her black cut-paper silhouettes ‘often [reference] the history of slavery and the antebellum South in the US through provocative and elaborate installations,’ reads the press release.
In 2014, Walker, who has been called ‘one of the most important artists of our era,’ received her first large-scale commission which inhabited a rundown factory in Brooklyn that once was a Domino Sugar Refinery. The title of the commission – A Subtlety: Or… the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant – really said it all. The artwork consisted of an expansive sugar-covered sphinx-like woman surrounded by a number of small, child-like figures made from sugar products including molasses, brown sugar, and toffee. The sphinx was more than 10 metres tall and over 23 metres long dominating and pristinely white against the rusty factory, so Walker isn’t afraid of large spaces.
There have yet to be any details released as to what Walker has in mind for the Turbine Hall but it seems she’s been given carte blanche with the trust of the Tate behind her. In the press release, Tate Modern director Frances Morris said: ‘Kara Walker fearlessly tackles some of the most complex issues we face today. Her work addresses history and identity with a powerful directness, but also with great understanding, nuance and wit. Seeing her respond to the industrial scale of the Turbine Hall – and the wider context of London and British history – is a hugely exciting proposition.’
Walker is bound to impress and her CV has a long list of accolades from her near 30-year career. In 1997, she received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award only a few years after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with an MFA. She went on to receive the United States Artists, Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008. In 2012, Walker became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 2015, she became the Tepper Chair of Visual Arts at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.