political art

Sugar Sphinx Artist Kara Walker to Return with Two Huge New Public Works

Kara Walker talks solving politics in art, fighting her celebrity status, and upcoming work in the latest issue of New York Magazine.

by Beckett Mufson
Apr 17 2017, 8:43pm

A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby (2014). Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Kara Walker's Domino Sugar Factory-based, Creative Time-hosted A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was one of 2014's most fashionable and political artworks. The bare-breasted sphinx with the head of a black mammy figure—made from resin and sugar to evoke the industry that drove the slave trade—was meant to challenge the art world establishment. At the same time, Sugar Baby drew thousands of smiling Instagrammers to the abandoned Williamsburg, Brooklyn factory each day it was open. 

After three years of gallery shows and one Santigold music video, the 47-year-old Walker is ready to dive back into public artwork. In New York Magazine's latest cover story, Walker says she's learned from her experience as an artist-cum-celebrity—difficult now that she's been outed as one of Beyoncé's favorite artists—and will bring that knowledge to two new public artworks this year. 

The first will be one of Sugar Baby's hands, the only remaining piece of the sculpture, displayed in a former slaughterhouse on the Greek island Hydra in concert with the Venice Biennale. "After A Subtlety, everybody was asking me to do something in a grist mill or some industrial setting," she tells reporter Doreen St. Félix. "What's going to happen is, this summer, the important art people of the world are going to go to the Venice Biennale, and then they're going to go to Art Basel, and then some of them are going to get on a boat and come to Hydra and see something they've already partially seen."

The next piece, to be shown at New Orleans' Prospect.4 festival, is a wholly new type of instrument that will play protest songs—with a Walker twist. "She conceived the idea when visiting Algiers Point, a site where slaves were held before being auctioned in the 18th century and black men were shot on sight by white vigilantes in the 21st, just days after Katrina viciously rearranged the earth," St. Félix writes. "She is hoping to set the project there."

Walker's work has unabashedly dealt with race in her work for her entire career, from before Sikkema Jenkins gallery started representing her in 1995. Now that she has a megaphone as large as her sphinx, she's trying to figure out what to do with it. 

Read the full story about it here.

Related:

And the Award for "Beyoncé's Favorite Artist" Goes to...

Kara Walker, Juliana Huxtable, and More Challenge False White Recordings of Black History

 Santigold Taps Kara Walker for a Silhouette-ified Music Video