You’ll find the latest work of African-American artist Kara Walker, A Subtlety or The Marvelous Sugar Baby, staged in an abandoned Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Recognized as an artist who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her work, the venue and its location is no coincidence.
To get to it, you walk through the glossy stream of high-rise apartments, stylish cafes and restaurants of Bedford Avenue – after which you might realize you are in a community that has gone through its own “refinement.”
Williamsburg is now seen as an extension (and perhaps the final frontier) of the young and creative New York of yore, while simultaneously coming to epitomize the problematic phenomenon of gentrification, which like the process of refining sugar often has the same whitening effect.
Since her 1994 Gone: An Historical Romance of Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of a Young Negress and Her Heart, Walker has been celebrated and criticized for her arresting tableaus of the antebellum South, constructed from room-sized black cut-paper silhouettes that form caricatures of a range of racial stereotypes of the period engaged in phantasmagorical scenes of sex, violence and general mayhem.
This exhibit is said to mark an expansion of Walker’s material, and its centerpiece is a gigantic 75.5 foot long, 35.5 foot high sphinx-like sculpture that the artist says she “chose…as a symbol of empire.”