Kara Walker’s newest installation is a bit different then her usual cut-paper silhouettes and animations based on her explorations through race, gender, identity, history and power. It still circles with the same subjects but it presents them in a different manner as previous works.
The installation is titled “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”.
Inside the massive storage shed of the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn the sculptures reference the luxurious sugar sculptures which were presented during banquets during the time of King Henry V and the triangular trade of slaves, sugar and rum.
Standing inside the great room, you realize you are surrounded by 15 oddly cute oversized molasses sculptures of kewpie doll-like boys caring what seems to be offerings of sugar fruit and spare body parts for the hybrid monster at the end of the room. Modeled after cheap souvenirs found on Amazon, these fascinating boys seem to be melting under the sunlight, which pours in from the windows at the top of the facility, creating small streams of syrup like liquid onto the dirty floor.
The main event of the installation, sits quietly surveying all that encircles her. The 75 feet long, 35 feet high, 26 feet wide, four-ton sugar-coated sphinx with a head donning a handkerchief and a large backside revealing a large exposed vulva are the combination of two racial stereotypes; the mammy figure and a satire of the highly sexualized black woman. Also there is a subtle commentary on the mammoth status (whether subconscious or not) on “Kara Walker the American Artist”, by having the large sphinx sculpture share similar features with the artist herself.
This installation is one of the most impressively grand and ingenious art installations I have ever seen. It not only exposes you to something you have never seen before but it indirectly creates questions about art and history that you may never know the answers to.
Haven’t posted in awhile because I have been busy with things that I will hopefully announce soon. While we are waiting, I thought I would post some of the photos I recently took at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn over the weekend.
The Domino Sugar factory, which opened in 1856 was once the largest sugar refinery in the world but now is an abandoned New York landmark.
The building looms over the edge of Williamsburg like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and will soon be renovated for modern condos.
As you approach the massive shell of the storage shed a sweet and pungent smell of aging sugar fills the air. Upon entering the facility, you become distracted that parts of the crumbling building might start falling down around you. You also witness remains of the building’s historical past with sugar piles on top of columns and behind walls, as well as the discoloration of aluminum paneling caused by years of the caramelized sugar stains.
Through it all you realize that there is still so much beauty in this aging building and it will be a sad day when it is gone.
Second post on Frieze 2014. More of the works that I found wonderfully interesting at the fair.
Self-Portrait (BOTEFO), 2014, Acrylic on canvas
Petah Coyne, Untitled # 1378 (Zelda Fitzgerald, Alabama Slammer Series), 1997-2013,
Silk flowers, wax, acrylic paint, white pigment, pins, pearl strands, ribbon, knitting needles, steel rods, chicken-wire, washers, fabric, thread, wire, horse hair, Masonite, plywood, drywall, plaster, glue, filament, rubber, steel, wood and metal screws, maple, laminated Luxar
Nikolas Gambaroff, Untitled, 2014, Paper and Acrylic on aluminum
Charles Avery, Untilted (Tree No. 4 for Jadindagadendar), 2013, Steel, brass, magnets, Perspex, Paint
Liu Wei, Library II-II, 2013, Books, wood, iron and hardware
Haegue Yang, Flashy Prismatic Composition- Trustworthy #232, 2013, Various envelope security patterns, framed
Gert & Uwe Tobias, Untitled (GUT/2199), 2014, Woodblock print on canvas
Los Carpinteros, Robotica, 2013, Wood, metal, Lego bricks
Yinka Shonibare, MBE,
New York Toy Painting, 2012, Emulsion, Dutch wax printed cotton, wire toys
Flower Power Kids (Dueling), 2014, Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, fiberglass, leather, and decommissioned antique flint-lock gun
Takashi Murakami, A Panda Family Doth Rest on Mine Head, 2014, Acrylic and gold leaves on canvas
Frieze is one of those art fairs that I really enjoy because it gives me an insight into more of a European mind concerning art. Though prices can be high, this fair is not targeted towards really wealthy buyers. The art is a little more edgy, a little more fun and has a little more humor. This is what I found was the most interesting.
Goshka Macuga, Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not 2, 2012, Tapestry
Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas
Damien Hirst, Hollywood, 2013-2014, Scalpel blades and Hammerite paint on canvas
Damien Deroubaix, carved into the walls of the In situ Fabienne Leclerc booth
Blade, 2012, Inax and Alcubon
Skin Crime 3 (Givenchy 318), 1997, Enamel paint on compressed Fiat 128
Eternal Wow on Shelves, 2007, Shelves: polished stainless steel, Sculptures: Fiberglass and car paint
Stelios Faitakis, In Danger of Lust, 2013, Mixed media on canvas
Bart Stolle, Radar, 2014, Acrylic on canvas
Antonis Donef, Untitled, 2014, Vintage printed matter collage on canvas
Erik Parker, Hello, 2014, Acrylic and collage on canvas
Self-Portrait (BOTEFO), 2014, Acrylic on canvas
8 years ago I traveled to a desert village an hour outside of Marrakech. I was there to meet a Berber family but had no idea how to pronounce what the village was called or where I was really going. Wandering around the area I saw this well on the edge of the village. This barren area of land surrounded it and I thought it was some kind of metaphor for hope and life. I cherished the black and white photo I took that day and the memory of the experience.
This time when I was in Marrakech, driving through the desert, I saw the well again. Not a well. The original one. Of course it seemed a bit crazy that I could recognize something that I saw so long ago and in an instant recognize it. But I had looked at the photo so many times and, like an old friend, there it was. I had no idea where I was physically but I knew, I knew that well. I knew it had to be the same one.
Now home, comparing the two photos that I took (you can see both below) I am wondering how old the well actually was? When was it made? How long was it standing there before I saw it? It did not look just built then, but I do not know how things age in a desert setting.
Obviously in the last 8 years things have cracked, broken or no longer exist but, it did still look like the well was working to produce whatever it needed to survive. So I guess that’s the lesson of the wells (and this post). Life puts you through so many things- tests you, chips away pieces of yourself, even takes away things you hold dear. In the end, you have to do whatever needs to be done to survive.
A hot air balloon ride is an unique experience where you float thousands of feet above the Earth’s surface and your perspective on your surroundings completely changes. When I first went to Marrakech I thought the countryside was just an endless desert. But when I saw it from above I realized the patchwork quilt landscape is a mixture of farms of palms and olive trees, desert, and mountain ranges. It was an endless view of unbelievable beauty.
One of the most delightful experiences you can participate in when you travel to Morocco is a hot air balloon ride. You have to get up at an ungodly hour and are driven to the a place in the desert where it occurs to you that if you were totally abandoned on the side of the rode, you would have no idea where you are in the world. But as soon as the people start blowing up the balloon, you do not care.
TIP: I have now done this twice with the same company, Ciel d’Afrique. They are quite wonderful and completely trustworthy.