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First we had all the Civil War sesquicentennial buzz of 2011, and more recently the successful and acclaimed film 12 Years a Slave, to remind us that the War Between the States has never receded politely and silently into the past; it still speaks loud and clear in our American present. Artist Kara Walker is part of that contemporary generation for whom the Civil War continues to generate fresh meaning and power. Her Anything but Civil: Kara Walker's Vision of the Old South leads its viewers back into that shameful stage of our country's moral development when slavery was considered just business as usual. Walker uses black paper to cut out silhouettes, most often of African Americans, that are silkscreened atop lithographs from Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War, an 1866 publication of scenes from the Civil War. Walker's prints summon a fictional world rooted deep in the raw reality of history. Anything but Civil is in galleries 234 and 235 of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org). Admission is free, and the show remains up through Sunday, August 10. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday.
Image Credit: Kara Walker, American, born 1969; Confederate Prisoners Being Conducted from Jonesborough to Atlanta, from the portfolio Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), 2005; offset lithograph and screenprint; printed and published by LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, Columbia University; 39 x 53 inches; Promised gift of Alison and John Ferring © Kara Walker, 2005