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Kara Walker’s ‘A Subtlety’ unveiled

Giant sphinx-lady sculpture inside Domino Sugar factory is not-so-sweet relief

for The Brooklyn Paper
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This artist is making the inside of the Domino Sugar factory bittersweet, with an emphasis on the bitter.

On May 10 globally recognized artist Kara Walker will present her first large-scale public project, “A Subtlety,” the centerpiece of which is an enormous, sugar-coated sphinx-woman. The sculpture is evocative of an enslaved woman in the Southern U.S. and is meant to be an ode to the laborers who toiled in cane fields and made corporate sugar empires like Domino possible, a theme that fits right into Walker’s oeuvre and the building’s history, an organizer of the exhibition said.

“With Kara’s history of addressing issues of trade, slavery, power, labor, and more, this couldn’t be a better match between artist and site,” said Anne Pasternak, president and artistic director of Creative Time, which commissioned the site-specific work.

The three-dimensional piece rises 35 feet and stretches 75 feet across the floor of the formerly abandoned waterfront building which is on its way to becoming the core of a massive residential complex.

Walker, who will be working on the installation up until Thursday, is best known for her room-sized displays of black cut-paper silhouettes that demonstrate America’s racial and gender pressures.

Creative Time has wanted to do something in the old Domino building for at least 20 years and having Walker be the one to do it was icing on the proverbial cake, Pasternak said.

“We’ve also wanted to work with Kara for years, so this has been like a dream come true in many ways,” she said. “She is a brilliant intellect and a fearless artist, who does not shy away from tough issues.”

The Domino building belongs to art-friendly developer Jed Walentas, who allowed the space to be used for the exhibition while he prepares to build apartments in the cavernous space.

“A Subtlety” at Domino Sugary Factory (S. First St. at Kent Avenue in Williamsburg], www.creativetime.org/projects/karawalker). May 10–July 6. Fridays, 4–8 pm. Saturdays and Sundays, 12–6 pm. Free.

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Reasonable discourse

Ted from Iowa says:
Definitely sugar-implants. Those puppies ain't real.
May 7, 2014, 9:13 am
Ethan Pettit from ethan pettit gallery, Park Slope says:
“With Kara’s history of addressing issues of trade, slavery, power, labor, and more, this couldn’t be a better match between artist and site,” said Anne Pasternak, president and artistic director of Creative Time, which commissioned the site-specific work.

Couldn't agree more!
May 7, 2014, 2:44 pm
b from greenpoint says:
The Domino "empire" was founded the same time the Brits and Amerticans abolished the slave trade.

I would be curious to know where Kara's sugar came from though... The Dominican Republic where slave labor may still be prevelant in the sugar fields?

A bit of history, the Sphinx was probably built by slaves. Africans had african slaves and sold them to the europeans who has european slaves, back in the day.

The Havemeyer family loved this city and treated it with the most respect. 'Design like you give a damn!'
- Look it up.
May 11, 2014, 1:41 pm
b from greenpoint says:
... A good first step: Don't build in areas that were flooded by Sandy.
May 11, 2014, 3:03 pm
Geri De Stefano from Vancouver, BC says:
This is a tour de force by an amazing artist who refuses to shy away from the dark side of such an ubiquitous substance. We ALL eat it. Yet, who stops to think about the history that shaped, formed and deformed the lives of so many millions of people through time. While viewers might think that this figure is "submissive" one look at those upraised haunches lets you know who's really in control here! My major regret is in not being able to actually stand in the Presence of this remarkable work. The visual is one thing and I can only imagine the assault to all the senses. This is the true gift of art that, clearly, emerges from a very deep process on the part of the artist: to take the viewer out of their comfort zone and transport them. Sometimes the places this takes us are meant to shake up our view and, quite possibly, move us to action. Thank you Kara Walker. You're certainly well embarked on the "Heroes Journey"
May 21, 2014, 8:45 pm

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