Kara Walker made her New York debut in a 1994 group exhibition at the Drawing Center with the 25-foot-long wall installation – Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. Its caricatured Antebellum figures, engaged in violent and sexual interactions, were silhouettes cut from black paper and installed directly on the wall. The silhouette technique has its roots in the sentimental Victorian ‘ladies’ art’ of shadow portraits, but the scale of Walker’s work also alluded to the 360-degree historical cycloramas popular during the post-Civil War era for the depiction of battle scenes.

Walker has continued to use both the silhouette and cyclorama forms to explore the nature of race representation as well as the history of figuration and narrative in contemporary art. In Endless Conundrum, an African American Anonymous Adventuress, she interrogates the representation of the black body by modernist artists from Matisse to Brancusi. The silhouette theme is continued in one of her more recent large-scale projects, the Katastwóf Karavan. A large wagon on wheels, created as part of the Prospect.4 triennial in New Orleans, it sat for a while on the banks of the Mississippi, depicting an ominous scene of dancing, marching figures draped in vegetation.