New York-based artist Kara Walker is perhaps best known for her use of black cut-paper silhouetted figures, often referencing the history of slavery and the antebellum South in the US through provocative and elaborate installations. Her works have featured prominently in exhibitions around the world since the mid-1990s. Her first large-scale public commission opened in the derelict Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn in 2014 and powerfully addressed the history of sugar production. Over 10 metres high and 23 metres long, A Subtlety was a monumental sculpture of a sphinx-like figure, covered in sugar and surrounded by smaller figures made of toffee, brown sugar and molasses. She has since designed and directed a production of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma for the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, and most recently she created The Katastwóf Karavan 2017, a musical installation as part of the Prospect.4 triennial in New Orleans. Taking the form of a calliope (a steam-powered organ) set inside a steel wagon and encircled by silhouetted figures, the work was used in a series of live performances as well as programmed to play songs related to African-American experience.
Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern says: ‘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.’