Monday, July 7, 2014

Kara Walker and the Marvelous Sugar Baby

Kara Walker's show at the Domino Factory is the last time people are able to shuffle through the entrance, and look up, at the sugar caked on the 5th floor rafters, and the molasses sliding down walls a decade after the last grain of sugar was refined. 

The space was regal, a little bit haunting, and filled with a smell that can't quite be explained in words. Pungent, really. Molasses and sunlight mixed together as the giant sphinx welcomed a crowd on a final day of the exhibition by Kara Walker. A woman who has been described as a "provocateur", when she truly is just making a visual commentary on issues we all like to ignore. Slavery and sugarcane. Race and minimum wage. Blue collars and 2015 high rise buildings. Coming and going.

There is something about installation art that has kept my attention for awhile now. The ability to combine a community and an idea, and experience how the two respond to each other. This space, with its infinite history, and the imminent future it has of high rise buildings and gentrification, made the last day extra heavy with feelings of mourning. 

Mourning for the days of workers in the plant who singed their skin on the burners, as dark brown sugar was bleached to white, and the tiny windows at the top of their station led to slivers of light. The sugar began melting down the side of the spinx, turning the stark white sculpture into lines of sand, that dripped near the toes of the onlookers. Little kids crouching down to look at the sugar. Old women getting their sandals trapped in the swirls of molasses on the floor. People my age taking selflies with the "sugar baby." 

The exhibition was one of the best I've seen this year. I've been extra lucky to see two large scales works that have as much to deal with the space, as the work itself. I love that. An artist that studies the history of the installation area, and plays it to an audience, who will respond in every possible way. I responded with too many pictures, but also a new found respect for Kara Walker. Check out the creation of the work here:


a collapsed sugar baby, like the one below

No comments:

Post a Comment