Black White Gray Blue
September 23, 2011 — February 5, 2012
Black White Gray Blue features an unusual mix of historical and contemporary prints and works on paper from the Des Moines Art Center’s permanent collection. The exhibition presents works in which artists revisit the horrors of slavery in America; witness, depict, and interpret the War Between the States; and confront this nation’s ongoing legacy of racism. More than just an historical commemoration, Black White Gray Blue invites viewers to consider the ways that modern and contemporary artists Robert Colescott, Jacob Lawrence, Glenn Ligon, Dario Robleto, and Kara Walker have envisioned and interpreted the war, its causes, and its outcomes.
The exhibition compares artistic strategies represented in the exhibition, from Winslow Homer’s narrative depictions drawn on site in Union military camps, battlefields, and on the home front, to Kara Walker’s and Glen Ligon’s appropriations and works “in the style of” 19th-century popular prints and works on paper. It also examines how an artist’s choice to work in a particular printmaking medium affects the ultimate realization of the artist’s vision. The exhibition’s title, Black White Gray Blue, signifies highly-charged color words, inviting viewers to contemplate a series of polarities. Filled with symbolism and metaphoric meaning, the colors Black and White evoke ideas ranging from race relations to absolute certainties, and to the very graphic media in the exhibition—wood engraving, etching, photogravure, lithography, and silhouettes. Gray and Blue allude to the uniforms of the Confederate and Union armies, but also suggest lack of certainty, shadows, and bodily, emotional and spiritual wounds.
Black White Gray Blue is organized by Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings.
This exhibition is supported by the International Fine Print Dealers Association Foundation
and the Des Moines Art Center Print Club.
Kara Walker (American, born 1969)
The Means to an End . . . A Shadow Drama in Five Acts, 1995
Hard-ground etching and aquatint on paper
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections;
Gift of Doreen M. and Kirk V. Blunck, 2009.72.a-.et