Don’t Miss Kara Walker’s Magnificent Sugar Sphinx at the Domino Sugar Factory

Kara Walker's enormous sphinx, 75 feet long, 35 feet high, and covered in four tons of white sugar.

On so many levels, this is a truly phenomenal event. Coming together on the Williamsburg waterfront you have the internationally renowned artist Kara Walker, best known for her provocative silhouettes set in the slave-holding South. A creation of her first large-scale public project ever and it's all within the beautiful, iconic, soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Factory. Curated by the excellent folks at Creative Time, Kara Walker's A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby*, is a fantastic convergence of art and history and humanity. Not to be missed.

Inside Domino Sugar Factory people walk around to look at all of Kara Walker's sugar statutes

Inside the Awe-inspiring Domino Sugar Factory

The first things that hit you upon entering the Domino space is the massive size. At 90,000 square feet, this is likely the largest room you've ever stood inside. Next, you'll notice the smell; the almost-cloying background scent of the 132-year-old building, once the largest sugar refinery in the world. Even if you're not all that interested in art, just walking around this place, which will soon be destroyed to make way for luxury housing, is an amazing, visceral experience.

The butt end of the gigantic sugar sphinx on display at the Domino Sugar Factory

Kara Walker's Sugar Sculptures

If the room sets the tone, Walker's art delivers the punch in the gut. There are two primary, equally powerful components to the piece: the dozen or so sculptures of boys, obviously of African origin, either slaves or child laborers, scattered throughout, made from molasses candy and literally melting, or "bleeding", right in front of you. Then there's the enormous sphinx at the room's far end, 75 feet long, 35 feet high, a black "mammy" covered in four tons of white sugar, naked and extremely vulnerable despite her gigantic size. I'll leave it to you to tease out and think through all of the implications here–and they are legion–about race and labor and industry and wealth. This is a true blockbuster.

A man and a women stand together admiring the statue made of sugar of a young African boy

More Information: Kara Walker's A Subtlety

Kara Walker: A Subtlety will be at the Domino Sugar Factory through July 6. Domino is located on Kent Avenue and S1st Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an easy walk from the L, J, and M trains. The exhibition is free and open to the public on Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. Note: like anything that's great going on in New York City, the Kara Walker exhibition is attracting big crowds, but even though the line looks formidable, it moves pretty quickly, and they let a lot of people inside at once. This is NOT a Rain Room, six-hour-wait sort of thing. For example, I showed up at 11:45 on Sunday morning, and was in the building by 12:20, twenty minutes after they opened the gate.     

An image of the massive line of people waiting to get into Kara Walker's A Subtlety

*The full title of the piece is "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"

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