Kara Walker Breaks New Ground With Her Latest Work
Text | Kate Guadagnino
After wandering the Met’s marble-floored galleries, venture to Williamsburg to see art star Kara Walker’s first big departure from her famously provocative silhouettes – a towering sculptural work called A Subtlety, which Creative Time just opened at the Domino Sugar factory. In the warehouse of the now-defunct plant (where brown sugar was once made white) sits a sphinxlike woman dressed as “the help.” She’s made entirely of sugar, with all its thorny connotations of slavery, empire, and industry. “I am always interested in the place where fact hits myth,” Walker says.
First, the artist steeped herself in research. “Did you know that pre-Columbus, sugar was a precious in Europe as gold?” Walker asks. “Every time I stir sugar into my coffee or tea – all colonial commodities! – I feel a connection to the ever-presentness of those histories.” Then she considered the setting, which she knew would be doing a lot of the metaphorical work for her. She hopes the piece will be “very straightforward and completely perplexing all at once,” adding, “I think art should be like that.”
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