Four Idioms on Negro Art #1 Folk belongs to a series of works inspired by the city of Atlanta, where Kara Walker spent her teenage years. Of these, three in particular are meant to evoke artistic “idioms,” or styles, associated with “negro art”: folk art, primitivism, and graffiti. Four Idioms on Negro Art #1 Folk both pays homage to and satirizes folk art, which is characterized in part by subject matter taken from the everyday lives of marginalized people and by a disregard for established artistic conventions, such as rules regarding proportion and perspective. In this chaotic scene, two authority figures invade what looks to be a club where women are pole dancing, toppling the dancers and aiming their guns at the protesting men. With its contrasting color palette of deep tones punctured by bright yellows and blues, roughly outlined figures, and confused space, Walker turns the “bad” qualities of folk art into powerful tools for representing trauma.
Label from We the People: New Art from the Collection, October 23, 2018–July 21, 2019