History, in silhouette

Icons in Conversation: Kara Walker

In artist Kara Walker's hands, the static silhouette becomes active, sometimes angry. Whether transformed into film, prints or metal sculpture, each piece explores the underlying tensions of race and gender issues.

The Stockton native's latest exhibition, Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker's Tales of Slavery and Power, is currently on display at the Crocker Art Museum through January 5, 2014. The collection features 60 pieces on loan from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation and comes with a warning for adults to preview the exhibit before allowing children to view it.

Drawing from folklore, cartoons, film, romance novels, history, slave narratives and black Americana figures, Walker's pieces have been called offensive, scary, brilliant and thought-provoking.

The push-pull struggle for power finds new meaning in Walker's black silhouettes. Two series that expand on that theme are The Emancipation Approximation, a collection of silk-screen prints drawing from Greek myth, and Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War: (Annotated), which depicts stark, woodcut lithographs overlaid with Walker's silhouettes.

Walker will discuss the politics and social meaning behind her works in a lecture at 3 p.m., on Sunday, November 17. Auditorium seats are sold-out, but the museum is offering a simulcast of Walker's discussion in an adjacent room for a discounted price. $10 for museum members and $15 for nonmembers, plus $5-$10 for museum admission. Crocker Art Museum, 216 O Street; (916) 808-7000; www.crockerartmuseum.org.