Pendleton Center for the Arts Exhibit Examines Racial, Gender Stereotypes

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The exhibit, Kara Walker: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, will go on display beginning March 5 at the Pendleton Center for the Arts. (Image courtesy of Kara Walker)

The art of Kara Walker will fill the Pendleton Center for the Arts (PCA) gallery when her exhibit opens on Thursday, March 5.

The exhibit, Kara Walker: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, will include her silhouette prints, photogravures based on videotaped shadow plays and a host of sculptural objects that seek to expand the viewer’s engagement with her work.

A reception for the public will be held on March 5 from 5:30-7 p.m. The all-ages event is free and open to the general public.

Walker was born in Stockton, California in 1969 and her family moved to Stone Mountain, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, when she was 13. Walker received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of in 1994. Moving at an impressionable age from a multi-cultural California environment to a small Georgia town where they still held Ku Klux Klan rallies had a profound impact on Walker. In graduate school she began exploring the history of American slavery and racism through silhouettes of exaggerated characteristics of persistent racial and gender stereotypes. She has since gone on to explore these themes in mediums as diverse as glass, metal, and even sugar. In 2014 her 40-foot tall sugar-covered sculpture, A Subtlety, designed as a tribute to the African American women involved in the 19th century sugar trade, drew more than 130,000 visitors.

In 1997 Walker received a MacArthur fellowship, commonly referred to as the “Genius Grant.” She was only 28 at the time and one of the youngest people ever recognized with the award. In 2007, Walker was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Artists and Entertainers in the World, and in 2012 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

“Walker’s work confronts the viewer,” said Roberta Lavadour, executive director of the PCA. “It asks us to look at race and gender through someone else’s eyes and to have an honest discussion about how racial and gender stereotypes and power imbalances persist in our lives.”

The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation has been collaborating with museums to exhibit and lend prints since 1997. The expansive collection features work from the 1960s to the twenty-first century and includes more than 8000 works on paper by more than 250 artists. The collaboration with the Pendleton Center for the Arts is built on Schnitzer’s passion for making great art accessible and a deep affection for the Pendleton community. He has been a major sponsor of the Pendleton Round-Up and has also funded a college scholarship program for the Round-Up Court and the Happy Canyon Indian Princesses.

While none of the works chosen for the exhibit are explicit, signage in the gallery will invite parents to preview works before bringing children into the space. Outreach activities will be geared to high school and college students and interactive displays will allow gallery visitors to link their personal devices to videos and more information.

The exhibit is on view through April 25 and admission is free for all ages. Group tours, gallery presentations and after-hours access are available by emailing director@pendletonarts.org. More information is available by calling 541-278-9201 or online at pendletonarts.org.