I spent this past weekend in New York City, and had the chance to visit Kara Walker’s installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn.
I lived in Brooklyn for many years and always marveled at the factory, which is a landmark that sits on the banks of the East River in Williamsburg. For years the tall brick factory has loomed over the neighborhood. I would always see it from the subway train or my bike, as I crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge.
I was excited to find that it would be open to the public temporarily for Kara Walker’s installation sponsored by Creative Time. Unfortunately the building is being demolished, a sign of the times, and the ever changing expansion of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with its new condominiums and buildings blocking the view of Manhattan and the waterfront.
I have always found Walker’s work to be incredibly complicated, multi-layered, and complex, and this installation was no exception. It was a complete multi-sensory immersion that addressed issues of race, gender, labor, economics, etc.
Kara Walker’s A Subtlety is on view until July 6, 2014. Check out the Creative Time website for more information.
I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the Domino Sugar Factory itself. Having always been curious about the building, I was finally inside!
When I walked into the Domino Sugar Factory, I could smell why the building would not be salvaged. The scent of sugar was completely overwhelming, and at times sickening. The smell was partly due to Walker’s sculptures, which are made out of sugar, and partly due to the factory itself, which was never cleaned. Sugar was everywhere; it lay like sawdust, and it covered the interior walls and floors with a sticky residue.
Creative Time could not have asked a more fitting artist to create a site-specific installation in this space. Kara Walker’s installation titled A Subtley… or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, is described as “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.”
Dozens of small boys, or slaves, or “sugar babies,” constructed entirely of sugar were placed around the large open factory space. Each one was deteriorating and melting, some more than others.
The large sculpture at the far end of the room was of a huge nude woman crouching down, almost like a sphinx. The sculpture was incredibly striking, with the sunlight coming through the factory windows and hitting the white sugar like marble or sparkling crystals.