Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory

By now, you’ve probably heard of artist Kara Walker’s massive installation at Domino Sugar Factory. So, in short: the 132-year-old sugar factory will be torn down this year to make way for (guess what) luxury condos — despite a high-profile campaign that fought to preserve the building.

Before it goes, Kara Walker has created a series of temporary sculptures from 80 tons of sugar inside the Raw Sugar Warehouse. An African-American artist, Walker’s installation comments on the history of the 19th century slave trade and the history of the sugar trade — most startlingly in the gigantic female sphinx , a caricature of black female bodies, that forms the centrepiece. The show is co-sponsored by the developers who are tearing down the space and, as such, some have noted that it misses the opportunity to comment on the ongoing gentrification of the area and the workers who lost their jobs when the factory closed in 2004. Beyond the subtitle, at least: 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.

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The line to get in stretches three blocks long; but moves quickly (the space is huge and can fit plenty so the actual wait time is only about 30 minutes).

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Upon arrival, visitors are handed waivers to sign. “It’s an active construction site,” we are reminded.

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The statues of the boys are made from resin and coated with sugar.

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Inside the baskets are the broken parts of the original sculptures that were made from sugar.

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In some places you can see the sugar dripping off the statues as they slowly melt away.

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The centrepiece Sphinx is 30-feet high.

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As much as the artwork, the space itself is a fascinating visit, reeking of sugar and its crumbling walls coated in the sweet substance.

The exhibition is on view Fridays through Sundays until July 6th.

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