The Harvard Art Museums announced Tuesday that a new piece by Kara Walker will be added to the galleries. The 12-by-15-foot “U.S.A. Idioms (2017)” was created within months of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Walker wrote, of the New York exhibition in which the piece was originally displayed, “I am tired, tired of standing up, being counted, tired of ‘having a voice,’ or worse, ‘being a role model.’ Tired, true, of being a featured member of my racial group and/or my gender niche. . . . I roll my eyes, fold my arms, and wait. How many ways can a person say racism is the real bread and butter of our American mythology. . .?”
In a statement about the acquisition, Martha Tedeschi, director of the Harvard Art Museums, said: “This is a powerhouse of a work — provocative in its subject and scale and also, as a drawing, incredibly beautiful and technically exhilarating. . . . Harvard’s president Drew Gilpin Faust, a scholar of the Civil War, slavery, and the American South, has drawn attention to the university’s institutional history and has prompted the campus community to examine painful realities of African-American heritage that have until recently remained unspoken and unaddressed. Walker’s willingness to foreground ‘contentious images and objectionable ideas,’ to use the artist’s own words, challenges us to look, not look away.”
No word on when the piece will be displayed; curators are still in discussions about placement in the museum.
Walker spoke at the Institute of Contemporary Art last year. The tickets sold out in 15 minutes.