at home: Art in Context | Barbara Walker‘s ”Shock and Awe”: History, Memory, and the Archive as Art Practice

October 26, 2021

at home: Art in Context

Art in Context, the Center's gallery talk series, is now online. Presented by faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and student guides, these lectures are held on the last Tuesday of each month during the academic year. Each talk focuses on a particular work of art in the Center's collections, or a special exhibition, and takes an in-depth look at its style, subject matter, technique, or time period.

About this program

Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center, examines Shock and Awe (2015–20), a series of monumental drawings by Barbara Walker that are based on photographs of soldiers serving in the West India Regiment and King's African Rifles during World War I. In recovering these images from the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London, Walker calls attention to the photographs as documentation or physical evidence of voices and memories often absent from canonical histories. Focusing on The Big Secret II and The Big Secret IV, two drawings from this series that are in the Center's collection, Ohadi-Hamadani considers how themes of memory and the archive feature in Shock and Awe and in Walker's practice more broadly.

About Barbara Walker MBE

Born and based in Birmingham, UK, Walker (b. 1964) is an artist whose work is informed by the social, political, and cultural realities that affect her life and those around her. Growing up in Birmingham, her experiences have directly shaped a practice concerned with issues of class and power, gender, race, representation and belonging. Her figurative drawings and paintings tell contemporary stories hinged on historical circumstances, making them universally understood and reflecting a human perspective on the state of affairs in her native Britain and elsewhere.

About Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani

Ohadi-Hamadani's research interests include transnationality and diaspora, and the politics of postwar abstraction and visual culture in Britain and beyond. She has curated exhibitions for the Cleveland Foundation and the Wichita Art Museum, and has held positions at the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Tate Liverpool; and the Ulrich Museum of Art. She is working on two upcoming exhibitions at the Center: a survey of work by Bridget Riley, and an exhibition of prints and drawings from the permanent collection.