See the exhibtion
The very long subtitle of Walker's first ever public-art project reads an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant. While the word artisan is a bit vague, the subject of sugar is certainly in keeping with the artist's career-long investigation of the historical wages of slavery and racism. Sugar was a key leg of the so-called triangle trade that traversed the Atlantic between the 16th and 19th centuries, as European slavers brought their human cargo to the Caribbean in exchange for molasses, which was then transported back to the Continent to be made into rum. Meanwhile, the subtlety of the title refers to sugar sculptures that once adorned the tables of the rich and powerful in Medieval Europe—which, given the rarity and expense of the substance at the time, were meant as displays of wealth. Accordingly, Walker's project for the old Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn centers on a giant female sphinx made of the sweet stuff. Although the installation relates to the site's past, it retains a sphinxlike silence about the location's future as a complex of office and residential towers along the Williamsburg waterfront.