New York—get thee to the Domino Sugar refinery!
New Yorkers know the iconic building well by site but few beyond aspiring mobsters or graffiti artists have ever actually had reason to visit the long-abandoned factory. Now, renowned visual artist and most excellent namer of projects, Kara Walker, has made the site home to her first ever large scale art installation, entitled “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”.
Walker—best known for her early paper cuts that use elegant lines to tell the far-from-elegant story of exploitation of black saves in the antebellum South (below)—employs the refinery to tap into the social ramifications of the sugar industry through history and tell a story all too easily forgotten or little heard by us most. From Kara Walker + instigators of innovative art, NYC’s Creative Time:
“Creative Time is thrilled to announce that it will present the first large-scale public project by the internationally renowned Kara Walker, one of the most important artists of our era. Sited in the sprawling industrial relics of Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar Factory, Walker’s physically and conceptually expansive work will respond to both the building and its history, exploring a radical range of subject matter and marking a major departure from her practice to date. The exhibition opens on May 10, 2014, and promises to be an eye-opening experience for both those who are familiar with Walker’s work and those who are new to it.”
The centerpiece of the show—the Sugar Baby, a gigantic, bright white, sphinx-like form—towers 35 feet above visitors as eerily wrought sculptures of children, made from dark, raw sugar, dot the floor around the huge ‘subtlety’ (the terms used to describe sugar sculptures in medieval times).
All in all, this sounds like a show not to be missed. “A Subtlety” is free and open to the public from 4-8PM Fridays and noon-6PM on weekends until the show closes, July 6.Walker will be in conversation with Radiolab‘s Had Abumrad at the New York Public Library at 7PM tomorrow night. The event’s sold out, but can be live-streamed via NYPL’s Web site. Read more about Walker’s work and the new installation in last week’s New York Times article and listen to a great piece on “A Subtlety” from NPR’s Audie Cornish.
Photo above, courtesy of NPR; all other photos, courtesy of The New York Times. Below, the Sugar Baby mid-construction; the refinery floor, pooled with molasses, which still leaks from the factory walls over a decade after it was shuttered; Walker’s paper cuts; and the artist with one of her sugar sculptures.