Kara Walker, Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress, 2002.
“Despite the serious subject matter of slavery, power and racism, Kara Walker employs a sense of humor in her work that ranges from the cynical and sarcastic to “toilet” humor laughs at bodily functions and sexuality. She uses stereotypes and caricatures - whether slave, master, black, white, male, or female - and exaggerates physical features to emphasize their race and often their position of power. Cartoonists and political commentators employ similar tools to allow us to giggle at current events and politicians even when the subject matter is serious. By poking fun at our constructions of race and character, power, and history, Walker presents slavery as an absurd theater of eroticized violence and self-deprecating behavior, and she dares to laugh at authority, be it the slave master of the whole of official history.
The impulse to find these images funny comes from the deep sense of discomfort they cause. Walker’s amusements intersect with shame when one realizes one is laughing at suffering. In this way, Walker navigates the limits of humor and challenges the viewer’s sense of what is comical.” [via.]