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Kara Waler’s ‘A Subtlety’ unveiled

Giant sphinx-lady sculpture inside Domino Sugar factory is not-so-sweet relief

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This artist is making the inside of the Domino Sugar factory bittersweet, with an emphasis on the bitter.

On May 10 globally recognized artist Kara Walker will present her first large-scale public project, “A Subtlety,” the centerpiece of which is an enormous, sugar-coated sphinx-woman. The sculpture is evocative of an enslaved woman in the Southern U.S. and is meant to be an ode to the laborers who toiled in cane fields and made corporate sugar empires like Domino possible, a theme that fits right into Walker’s oeuvre and the building’s history, an organizer of the exhibition said.

“With Kara’s history of addressing issues of trade, slavery, power, labor, and more, this couldn’t be a better match between artist and site,” said Anne Pasternak, president and artistic director of Creative Time, which commissioned the site-specific work.

The three-dimensional piece rises 75 feet and stretches 35 feet across the floor of the formerly abandoned waterfront building which is on its way to becoming the core of a massive residential complex.

Walker, who will be working on the installation up until Thursday, is best known for her room-sized displays of black cut-paper silhouettes that demonstrate America’s racial and gender pressures.

Creative Time has wanted to do something in the old Domino building for at least 20 years and having Walker be the one to do it was icing on the proverbial cake, Pasternak said.

“We’ve also wanted to work with Kara for years, so this has been like a dream come true in many ways,” she said. “She is a brilliant intellect and a fearless artist, who does not shy away from tough issues.”

The Domino building belongs to art-friendly developer Jed Walentas, who allowed the space to be used for the exhibition while he prepares to build apartments in the cavernous space.

“A Subtlety” at Domino Sugary Factory (S. First St. at Kent Avenue in Williamsburg], www.creativetime.org/projects/karawalker). May 10–July 6. Fridays, 4–8 pm. Saturdays and Sundays, 12–6 pm. Free.

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