Last Day for Art & Industrial History: Kara Walker’s “Sugar Baby”

Crowds surround Kara Walker’s monumental sugar sculpture

Crowds surround Kara Walker’s monumental sugar sculpture

The crowds lined up yesterday on Kent Avenue all the way beyond the Williamsburg Bridge, almost to Schaeffer’s Landing, waiting to enter the rusted, aromatic, tumble-down confines of the old Domino Sugar Factory on one of the last days to see Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby”, commissioned by Creative Time.

Today is the last day, so take a look at history in person, on our Flickr page, or in the video below.

Security was in full force to keep the Williamsburg bike path clear and drivers were slowing down to ask, “What’s going on and what are people waiting for?” only to be told by patient fans, “They’re lined up to see art!”

Once inside, the marvelous, gigantic Sugar Baby sculpture was on hand to preside over the far end of the abandoned several-block-long 1851 industrial space that once refined over half the sugar consumed in the entire United States.

One of her many attendants throughout the factory

One of her many attendants throughout the factory

As readers of Friday’s front-page article in The New York Times knew, Walker was again pushing the buttons with her homage to the brutal history of the sugar trade from the 1700s until today by giving us an experience that isn’t really all that sweet. Witnessing Kara’s witnessing is what had people – including some elderly visitors on canes — flocking to the sticky-floored, slightly ominous space. You could smell the sugar and molasses before you even entered the door.

Leading up to the gigantic white sculpture, people encountered all sorts of molasses-children, toting baskets full of…well…looks/smells like molasses. The experience evokes everything that Kara wished for…history, economics, society, race, abuse, industrial profit, and industrial scale.

Take a look at how it was made, and read about the history behind her thinking. Click on this link to Vimeo, look on the Creative Time website to see her sketches and graphic inspirations, and be sure to check out the various stages of Kara’s 3D digital sphinx up close.

If you go to Brooklyn today, expect to wait about an hour in line; once inside, there’s plenty to think about.

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