As a native New Yorker, I’ve talked many times about my love of the island of Manhattan. Part of that love includes a loyal, and stubborn refusal to always accept all the newness that has, and continues to seep into the city. The city I love while still charming has lost a lot of its originality, and uniqueness. Old stores continue to be driven out by high rents, and trademark store fronts and signs are torn down. The latest to join the ranks is the old Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn. I’ve looked past the East river onto this building many times throughout my life, but last weekend I actually go to be on the other side. We took a quick ride on the L to the Kara Walker show, Subtlety, which is on view inside the factory, for only a few more days.
What I found inside was a multitude of design, and grandeur overflowing with emotion and messages. When you first enter the old, run-down building, you’re immediately overcome by a sense of pain told through a story. I was taken with the sculptures of kids, and babies missing limbs, looking like they were almost dripping in brown sugar. However, what I was more taken with was everyone’s ubiquitous predilection to pose, both for the camera, and for selfies, in front of all the surrounding art. On a lighter moment we both laughed and made fun of the woman standing in front of the main piece, a Massive sphinx woman , doing yoga poses while standing between her breasts and posing for the camera.
The woman, huge in presence is crafted from white sugar and is explicit in it’s subtlety. This African American woman hovers above, perhaps standing as a beacon for all the surrounding pieces; small children carrying baskets, and bowls and offering a main message on the treatment of the sugar factory workers. There is nothing subtle about Kara Walker’s Subtlety, and the large scale exhibit succeeds in provoking thought and encouraging interaction and photography. And yet, maybe they should have been careful what they wished for.
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