May 7, 2014 - Creative Time - Kara Walker’s first public artwork
May 7, 2014

Kara Walker’s first public artwork

Photo: Jason Wyche. Courtesy Creative Time, 2014.

Kara Walker
A Subtlety

May 10–July 6, 2014

Domino Sugar Factory
Kent Avenue at South 1st Street 
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Hours: Friday 4–8pm, Saturday–Sunday noon–6pm

Creative Time presents Kara Walker’s first public artwork, opening in the former Domino Sugar Factory on May 10. The installation transforms the iconic industrial space into a site of awe, provocation, and contemplation.

From May 10 through July 6, a monumental, immersive new work by legendary artist Kara Walker will dramatically transform the former Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Walker’s highly anticipated project, which represents a major departure from her practice to date, responds to the history of the industrial site with a radical work that is both inspired by and embedded with the history of sugar and the sugar trade, including its many implications past and present. It promises simultaneously to provoke, engage, charm, and challenge visitors. Commissioned and presented by Creative Time, this is Walker’s first major public project. 

As is her tradition, Walker has given the work a title that is at once poetic and descriptive. It is: 
At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker Has Confected: 
A Subtlety
Or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant

Creative Time Chief Curator Nato Thompson states, “Kara Walker is one of the most intellectually and aesthetically brilliant artists working today. For this project, she has immersed herself in the history of sugar, creating a work that is at once beautiful and troubling. While formally the work is a significant departure from her previous artworks, the underlying tensions of power, sexuality, and empire continue to resonate and provoke.”

The focus of A Subtlety is a colossal, sugar-coated, sphinx-like figure that presides over the cavernous, 30,000-square-foot space. Measuring some 75.5-feet long, 35.5 feet high, and 26 feet wide, the majestic figure towers over her surroundings and evokes a multiplicity of meanings and references, from raw sexual power, to oppression, to empire, to the historically inextricable role of slavery in the sugar economy, and much more. And while her ancestry clearly includes the sphinxes that figure prominently in ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology, with their associations with lost empires, hubris, and cunning, Walker’s title also hints at another source at play in the work: the subtleties, or intricate sugar sculptures, that were served at aristocratic tables in Europe during the Middle Ages, representing themes that would be recognizable to the dinner guests—the king, a hunt, warfare, etc.

The sphinx is attended by fifteen five-foot-high sculptures of young boys, arrayed in a procession leading to her. Scaled up from collectible tchotchkes that Walker found online, the figures—five of which are made of sugar—carry baskets and bananas as they approach the massive figure that dominates this cathedral of industrialism.

For more information, click here.


Creative Time presents Kara Walker’s first public artwork
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