Kara Walker: Ruffneck Constructivists

Copublished with ICA, Philadelphia, in 2014
With contributions by Kara Walker and Craig L. Wilkins
Design by A.K. Burns
96 pages, 120 color images, softcover, 8 ½ x 10 ¼ inches
ISBN: 9780884541295


Ruffneck Constructivists, published to accompany a group exhibition curated by artist Kara Walker for the ICA Philadelphia, brings together 11 international artists in order to define a contemporary manifesto of urban architecture and change. Inspired by both the Russian Constructivists and MC Lyte’s 1993 hit song “Ruffneck,” the phrase “Ruffneck Constructivists” evokes thuggishness as an expression of abjection. As Walker states, “Ruffneck Constructivists are defiant shapers of environments. Whatever their gender affiliation, Ruffnecks go hard when all around them they see weakness, softness, compromise, sermonizing, poverty, and lack; they don’t change the world through conscious actions, instead they build themselves into the world one assault at a time.” The book features sculpture, photography and video by the artists Dineo Seshee Bopape, Kendell Geers, Arthur Jafa, Jennie C. Jones, Kahlil Joseph, Deana Lawson, Rodney McMillian, Pope.L, Tim Portlock, Lior Shvil, and Szymon Tomsia.


The term “Ruffneck Constructivists” is Walker’s intentional recasting of “Russian Constructivists.” Viewing F.T. Marinetti’s 1909 Futurist Manifesto as a precursor to hip hop artist The Notorious B.I.G.’s Machine Gun Funk, the phrase “Ruffneck Constructivists” evokes thuggishness as an expression of abjection. Walker’s wordplay suggests a relationship between the works on view in the exhibition and the moment, a century ago, when art and architecture were remaking a modern world.

The exhibition features sculpture, photography, and video and focuses on structure and space as it is made and remade by policed bodies and identities. As Walker states, “it is my hope that the interaction between these very divergent works and methods could return a viewer to the questions of modernism, architecture, urbanism and the resistant bodies who reshape it.”

—Contemproary &

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