Kara Walker and the Irony of Subtlety

Kara Walker and the Irony of Subtlety

Renowned contemporary artist Kara Walker is set to turn heads and raise eyebrows with her upcoming body of work, but of course that’s standard procedure for the artist.

While some may know Walker by way of her tongue-in-cheek silhouettes that serve as an observation of the “antebellum” South, after she drops this new batch of work, folks will surely be hitting their browsers to find out more about the artist. Why? How about a sugar-coated true-to-size sphinx.

Kara Walker Sphinx mid-production

Commissioned by the Creative Time agency, Walker’s sphinx will be part of her “A Subtlety” show. Here’s how Creative Time details the show:

Creative Time is honored to announce that it will present the
first large-scale public project by Kara Walker, one of the most celebrated artists of our era. Occupying the sprawling, 90,000-square-foot industrial relics of Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar refinery, the physically and conceptually expansive work will constitute a major departure from the artist’s practice to date, as it explores a radical range of subject matter, including but not limited to the history of sugar and its many implications. In both form and content…

If your first thought is to question the significance or practicality of a structure made entirely of sugar, then you might want to sit and let Walker’s alternative title for her show set in:

…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.

Yup, heavy stuff, but definitely a fresher take than you got in social studies. Much like the rest of Walker’s work, there’s a narrative at hand. Walker feels that sugar and it’s significance to both the black and American experience are heavily overlooked, and what better way to get you to look than to throw it in your face? Speaking of throw it in your face, take a look at the blueprint for Walker’s Sphinx below.

Kara Walker Sphinx Blueprints and Plans Photo by Abe Frajndlich

 

Yup Nicki Minaj Sarah Baartman status (put down that Straight Stuntin’ Mag and do some research on the origins of cheek infatuation), and it’s not for your unrelenting desire. Walker explains:

“She’s possessing two modes of being at once, supplicant with the large butt, but also self-possessed and in control and offering a kind of gentle ‘fuck you,’”…

The show is a historic moment for the artist and the space in which her work will be shown. The Domino Sugar Factory, located in Brooklyn, may see its demise shortly after the show. It is rumored that it will be demolished and developed much like the rest of Willy B.

To catch Kara Walker’s new piece commissioned by the Creative Time Agency, hit up the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn this Saturday, May 10, for the opening. The piece will be on display through July 6 on Fridays from 4-8 pm, and every Saturday and Sunday from 12-6 pm.

[h/t Gallerist, NY Times, Creative Time]