Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kara Walker | Freedom, a Fable

Kara Walker
Freedom, a Fable
Santa Monica, USA: Peter Norton Family Christmas Project, 1997
23 x 21 x 3 cm.
Edition of 4000

Subtitled, A curious interpretation of the wit of a Negress in troubled times, with illustrations, this bookwork combines Walker's delicate silhouettes with the medium of the children's pop-up book. The book follows the story of a young black woman named N— who was emancipated after the Civil War. She dreams of going “back to Africa” but instead finds herself on a ship with other “contraband of war", and passengers who weigh throwing her overboard or keeping her in case of starvation.

The title is available at the MoMA, here, for $6,200.00 US (or $4,960.00 for members).

"Each year since 1988, rather than sending out a holiday card, Mr. Norton has commissioned an artist to create an edition -- usually the sculptural objects or books known as "multiples." These are produced in quantities from 2,500 to 5,000 unnumbered copies, according to Kris Kuramitsu, the curator of the Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton Collections, who oversees the project. Once finished, the pieces are packed by a fulfillment house near the Norton-family office in Santa Monica, Calif., and shipped out around the world a few weeks before Christmas.

Though such large runs might imply that the gifts are only glorified trinkets, they are anything but; most are made by a celebrated artist who is already represented in Mr. Norton's own collection.

The general idea, Ms. Kuramitsu said, is "to make contemporary art accessible and understandable, through an actual object that people can live with."

As the best multiples tend to do, each Norton project typically provides a smart twist on the artist's previous work. One example is the 1997 Christmas gift by Kara Walker, known for her flat wall installations of cut-paper silhouettes in black that pinpoint the nuances of the antebellum South. Her Norton project was a pop-up book called "Freedom: A Fable," which illuminates the dreams of "a soon-to-be-emancipated 19th-century Negress" using 3-D cut-paper constructions."

- Carol Kino, New York Times, 2005

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