Sculpture artist/boundary-pusher, Kara Walker, uses art as a medium to expose the atrocities committed in the antebellum American South against African Americans. Her latest work is on display at the abandoned Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. The piece is called A Subtletly, however it's anything but. At 75ft long and 35ft high and 26ft wide, it's a mammoth critique on the detestable and dehumanizing history of slavery.
Photography by Jason Wyche, Courtesy Creative Time, 2014
The work is mostly made out of sugar and comprises a series of figures, including 15 servants bearing empty baskets and bananas. These boyish slaves are moving towards a giantess at the centre of the piece, naked except for a Black Mammie headscarf. Her sphinx-like physique is exaggeratedly feminine. "I was thinking about sugar and the associations with desire," explains the artist. -The Art Newspaper
Walker's won renown in the art world for her previous work, in which she overlays black cut-paper silhouettes on white walls. The figures are contorted into positions that depict depravity and cruelty.
Walker needed to remove a six-inch layer of molasses before she could start work on the sculpture. The factory itself has a storied past: It was once the world's largest sugar refinery and one of the first companies listed on the Dow Jones.
The sugar trade created a triangular economy: slaves were sold from Africa to the Americas; sugar to New England; and then rum made from molasses was sold back to Africa. "Sugar brought about a new kind of world structure: diets changed, the way business was done changed, there was a rise of the importation of enslaved Africans," Walker says. The full title of the installation makes this history explicit: 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. A Subtlety opens on Saturday 10 May (until 6 July). It is open on Fridays 4pm-8pm; and on Saturdays and Sundays 12pm-6pm. - The Art Newspaper