Philippe Vergne discusses Kara Walker’s Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997)
Philippe Vergne, September 1999
I choose another artist, Kara Walker, which has been very, very controversial, which is also something for me which is difficult to speak with because I'm ... (I don't know if you're interested in that, but ...) Coming from Europe, it's very interesting for me to see how her work is controversial because she is dealing with the post-colonial history of America, also, in a ... opened by David Hammons, dealing with the stereotype of the African-American representation. We had her in an exhibition called "No Place Like Home" a few years ago where she did this profile work, black papers cut which were addressing like a stereotype ... (I don't know how you call that) The way I was seeing this work was she was using something very South, the way at the end of the nineteenth century, people were doing narrative historical representation. She deals through this work with the story of slavery and in a very disturbing way, because she is making something which is very healing in one hand and very aggressive and cruel on the other hand, but dealing with a lot of distance with that history, with a lot of humor, too. When you look at her work, there is not one of the communities engaged in the work which is safe. Both are not criticized, but are shown with this idea of caricature of the stereotypes. Because of this first kind of work, this profile thing, she was very attacked by the art community and also the African-American art community telling her that she couldn't do that. This stereotype she was using was not something you can play with. It's not a joke and ... distance couldn't be applied to this kind of history. And to answer this thing she did this whole series of drawings to answer these critiques as a diary called Do You Want Cream in Your Coffee? [Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk?], which addresses like a diary her reaction to this criticism, also in a very classical way. It's watercolor. It's also ... I don't know if it's caricature ... I don't know if it's grotesque but addressing in a very, very violent way the issue of race, issues of her gender.
Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center