All posts tagged: Anne Pasternak

Coney Island Dreaming: Following the Signs to Stephen Powers

Coney Island Dreaming: Following the Signs to Stephen Powers

Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull) is one of 3 new exhibits inspired by the historic attractions of Brooklyn’s seaside

Graffiti artist-turned-sign painter Stephen Powers is dreaming of Coney Island and he is bringing a colorful collection of found and freshly produced signage that evokes a forgotten era to climb the columns of a Brooklyn Museum gallery.

Given the boisterous parade of brands and logos into museums that is happening as part of the institutional funding and programming mix, its fun to see the ninth episodic installation of this traveling ICY SIGNS shop here; its simplicity and guile recalling amusing persuasive techniques from the mid-century American advertising lexicon. Simultaneously, for those who have been lucky enough to sicken themselves on cotton candy and The Wonder Wheel, the new show imparts a rather reassuring and seedy nostalgia for Coney Island, complete with an inexplicable hankering for a thick beef hot dog.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Just as warm weather recedes and late autumn’s chill darkens that historic city seaside amusement park, the popsicles and sand and titillating oddities are all rushing inside for the winter at Brooklyn Museum. Here and in adjacent galleries, the stage-directing showfolks at BKM are offering conjoined triplets for you to gawk at: Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull), Coney Island: Visions of An American Dreamland, 1861-2008 and Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In tandem with his merry band of mostly reformed graffiti writers-turned-sign painters, Powers’ installation pops up and outward chaotically like nighttime fireworks seen from the boardwalk on the 4th. The fast talking Philadelphia-born Powers is a natural carnival barker, showman, and punny word player, and this textual chorus of messages invites you to consider the tantalizing language of the pitch as well.

While you tumble layer upon layer, feel free to revel in the clever permutations of implorative doublespeak delivered with non-linear panache, a cluster of colorful visual cues here cut from their tether and flying above your head. Rather than actually selling you something, however, it’s the method of delivery that Powers is celebrating. It’s a joyride of icons that trumpets the juxtaposition of the graphic, the selection of the symbol, the wink of an eye, the turn of the word, the jocular joust.

Just like any rollercoaster or peeping attraction, its a thrill best enjoyed by holding on tight, alternately letting go completely, blurring your eyes and drinking in the candied, fried, salty sweetness. And just like any tourist attraction that helps those yearning for a closer view, a classic binocular tower viewer is sited center stage for you to gaze further than the human eye.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In a city that is quickly stamping out the last remaining handmade signage that was once ubiquitous on bodegas, candy shops, record stores, laundromats, restaurants, bars, pizza joints, and hot dog stands, it is ironic that these new signs recalling that communication vernacular are being brought into the museum. If any of these signs remain in public space today, they are faded glories overlooked, often called “ghost signs”. Powers brings the language back to life, inverting the expected, cleverly blending in his own sense of Coney Island romance, heavily salted and smothered in ketchup.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Anne Pasternak, the new director of this encyclopedic institution, saw the value in preserving this particular character of New York when she was President and Artistic Director of Creative Time and the organization collaborated with Powers for the first time in 2004 and 2005 on The Dreamland Artists Club in Coney Island. Those first two projects were the genesis of their collaboration in Coney Island again in 2008 with The Waterboard Thrill Ride. Emblazoned by Powers’ hand painted wit the darkly satirical project was sited in a Coney Island peeing booth/grindhouse that stirred controversy for its animatronic depiction of torture.

More often Powers’ installations in a dozen or more cities are affectionately referred to as Love Letters, including massive text-based projects that cover walls and neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Syracuse and 2011’s Love Letter to Brooklyn, which wrapped a building with city inspired phrases of 250 or so words in downtown BK.

Here at the museum you are best served to get in close and go full bore into the jumbled chaos of words always at play in Power’s work and mind. The installation features the twisted phraseology of a country baked in advertising jingles, slogans, and blustery bromides and each of the artists (Justin Green, Matt Wright, Mike Levy, Dan Murphy, Mike Lee, Mimi Gross, Alexis Ross, Sean Barton, Eric Davis, and Tim Curtis) bring their own handstyles and witticism to these conversations, a playful and sarcastic examination that bubbles and splashes like waterfalls of words beneath the rotunda.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As Powers and team completed their installation this week for Friday’s opening we spoke with curator Sharon Matt Atkins, Vice Director of Exhibitions and Collections Management, to see if the newest iteration of ICY SIGNS has been the fun house that it appears to be.

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about the intersection of the three exhibits here as expressed in the signage of Powers?
Sharon Matt Atkins: Our three Coney Island exhibitions capture the spirit of the seaside community and give a feeling for how the place has inspired generations of artists. Powers’ installation in particular brings the visual language of Coney Island to the Museum by recalling the great tradition of hand-painted signs.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How much of the exhibit is specific to this installation and how much is heritage pieces from its pre-iterations?
Sharon Matt Atkins: This installation combines found signs alongside those created by Powers and ICY SIGNS. The works by Powers and ICY SIGNS include both earlier work as well as new signs and paintings created for this exhibition.

Brooklyn Street Art: Brooklyn Museum is once again embracing the language of Brooklyn streets and public space, bringing it into a gallery and presenting it as vital and worthy of consideration. How does this one compare to the shows you organized for Swoon and Faile?
Sharon Matt Atkins: I have loved seeing the Cantor Gallery transformed with each artist’s installation, and also with recent exhibitions like Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic and Crossing Brooklyn. It’s a beautiful space that lends itself to different kinds of experiences.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How does the space lend to or present a challenge for the displaying of the multiple signs?
Sharon Matt Atkins:
Powers and team really wanted to respond to the architecture, much in keeping with how signage becomes layered in cities and places like Coney Island. Working with the piers of the Museum’s Cantor Gallery, they built layers and stretched upward about 40 feet, creating these soaring towers of signs that are anchored by sign benches at their bases. Providing a lively and educational element to the exhibition, we will also have sign painters at work here on Thursday evenings, and afternoons on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Stephen Powers . ICY SIGNS “Shameak” “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Powers “Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull)” Brooklyn Museum. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve Powers’ site specific installation “Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull)” is presented in conjunction with “Coney Island: Visions of An American Dreamland, 1861-2008”. Both exhibitions will open to the public this Friday, November 20th and will run until March 13, 2016. Click HERE for more details.

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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What Happened with BSA + FAILE at the Brooklyn Museum?

What Happened with BSA + FAILE at the Brooklyn Museum?

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Steven P. Harrington, Patrick Miller of Faile (top), Sharon Matt Atkins, Patrick McNeil, and Jaime Rojo (image © by and courtesy of The Dusty Rebel) (@DustyRebel on Instagram)

Yes, it was a big deal for us so we want to share it with you. A few years after we introduced Faile to the Brooklyn Museum we have been blown away by the success of their exhibition Savage/Sacred Young Minds all summer long, as well as the long lines of people who have flowed through both of their immersive environments (Temple, and Deluxx Fluxx with Bäst). Under the guidance of curator Sharon Matt Atkins, Vice Director, Exhibitions and Collections, the museum has again produced a relevant, modern and dynamic show that brings in the street and resonates strongly with the local Brooklyn community and academics as well.

You must have seen (or been a part of) the ocean of people here one night in July when Swizz Beatz and Faile celebrated art and art-making with many of the youth who gave birth to this current Street Art movement in New York. A central tenet of this encyclopedic museum for the last decade and a half has been to produce exhibits and events that involve the community, that are relevant and impactful and the audience at our event in the auditorium attests to the success of exhibitions like Faile’s in this respect.

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Patrick McNeil installing Deluxx Fluxx this spring at the Brooklyn Museum (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Following their work on the street since the late 1990s when Faile began making Street Art, we didn’t actually get to meet them in person until many years later, but we’ve always admired their tenacity and risk-taking and experimentation with their work. The crowning event for us was to interview them on the stage of the museum with the show’s curator Sharon Matt Atkins and to introduce some new people to them live and online; along with a bunch of stalwart longtime fans, collectors, gallerists, art students, and journalists.

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The pre-show began with some collaged video of commercials and TV/movie excerpts inspired by Faile’s personal history as youth growing up in the 1980s. Our presentation momentum hit a few speed bumps at the beginning because of microphone outages and we almost lost the rhythm but eventually we got it back and we had a great time with the guests and the audience members, who were so astute and amazing and articulate in their questions and during the conversations we had later with them at the reception.

Our sincere thanks to Ms. Matt Atkins, Patrick McNeil, Patrick Miller, Director Anne Pasternak and The Brooklyn Museum for hosting us, Alicia Boone the Adult Programs Manager for helping put it all together, previous Director Arnold Lehman for his support, as well as Brooke Baldeschwiler, Shelly Bernstein, Emily Annis, Radiah Harper, Patrice Capobianchi, Matthew Branch, Osaro Hemenez, Robert Nardi, Tim, Emily Liebowitz, Paul Bessire, Meryl Cooper, Fatima Kafele, Lauren Zelaya, Margo Cohen Ristorucci, Sally Williams, and all of the staff and folks at the museum with whom we have been working with over these past few years and Chris Jordan, Doc Gregory, and Ray Cross. It is an honor and a privilege to be a Brooklyn neighbor and a part of The Brooklyn Museum family.

 

Faile’s show closes October 4th! Hurry!

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Review of BSA at Brooklyn Museum with Faile on artnet news
Street Art Duo FAILE Urges Fans to Make a Statement at the Brooklyn Museum – Amanda Thomas

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Also read our review of the BKM exhibit when it opened:
Holy FAILE! ‘Savage/Sacred Young Minds’ at Brooklyn Museum

See Part II of the interview with Faile on Livestream

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!
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Happy New Year 2015 – BSA Readers Choice Top 10

Happy New Year 2015 – BSA Readers Choice Top 10

Happy New Year to All! Thank you for inspiring us to do our best and to those of you who continue to support our personal art project / cultural examination, we extend our gratitude more than ever.

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Begun as an enthusiastic discovery of what was happening in a few neighborhoods in New York, we continued to expand our view into more cities around the world last year and into the history and future of the scene. We also aimed to provide you with a critical platform for examination of the street art/ graffiti / public art/ contemporary art continuum with interviews with artists, curators, collectors, organizers, observers and thinkers in the street, studio, gallery, and museum – trouble makers and taste makers alike.

In the end, it’s your observations and the conversations on the street that are most important. As we begin the year with over 300K fans, friends, and followers on social media platforms and 225 articles on the Huffington Post (thanks HuffPost team!), we feel like we get a valuable good survey of current opinions heading our way daily.

With in-depth interviews, investigative articles, opinion infused examinations, plain celebratory reverie, occasionally silly non-sequitors, and public appearances where we get to meet you, we get a good analytical look at an ever-evolving movement, glittery polish and warts and all.

As the new year begins we take a look back at the top stories chosen by BSA Readers in the last 12 months. Among them are two takeover pop-up shows in soon-to-be demolished buildings, a story about commercial abuse of artist copyrights and the effort to fight back, a street art community’s response to the sudden death of an activist street artist, a Street Art tourist trip, and a few inspirational women, men, and Mexican muralists.  Even though we published at least once a day for the last 365 days, these are the most popular pieces, as chosen by you, Dear BSA Reader.

10. Exploring Lisbon as a Street Art Tourist

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Os Gemeos / Blu (photo © Stephen Kelley)

9. Kara Walker and Her Sugar Sphinx at the Old Domino Factory

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Kara Walker. The artist portrait in profile with her sugary sphinx in the background. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

8. Women Rock Wynwood Walls at Miami Art Basel 2013

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Fafi (photo © Martha Cooper for Wynwood Walls)

7. A Sudden Secret Street Art House Party in Manhattan

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Icy & Sot (photo © Jaime Rojo)

6. Niels Shoe Meulman Balancing “Unearthly” Paintings

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Niels “Shoe” Meulman. Process shot. (photo © Adele Renault)

5. It’s All the Rage, Street Artists Filing Lawsuits Left and Right

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4. Shok-1 Street Art X-Rays Reveal a Unique Hand at the Can

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Shok-1 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

3. 12 Mexican Street Artists Stray Far from Muralism Tradition In NYC

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Sego (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2. Army Of One, Inspiration To Many : Jef Campion

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Army Of One AKA JC2 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

1. Graffiti and Street Art Lock Up “21st Precinct” in New York

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Pixote in action. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!
 
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Kara Walker and Her Sugar Sphinx at the Old Domino Factory

Kara Walker and Her Sugar Sphinx at the Old Domino Factory

Refining, as Creative Time’s Chief Curator Nato Thompson reminds us inside this 30,000 square foot former Domino Sugar facility, is a process whereby coarse cane is decolorized, and brown is turned powdery and crystalline white.

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Kara Walker. The artist portrait in profile with her sugary sphinx in the background. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

Armed with such loaded symbolism, internationally renowned artist Kara E. Walker unveils her Subtlety installation this week, completely commanding this steel girded chamber of the industrial north and jolting you from your sugar haze. Towering over our heads is the resolute and silent face of a kneeling nude polystyrene white woman with African features, posed to resemble a 35 foot sphinx encrusted with sugar and to receive your questions.  Subtlety indeed.

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Kara Walker (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

“I’m grateful to Creative Time for inviting me to create work in a place like this that is so loaded with histories and questions,” says Ms. Walker of the nonprofit organization that commissions and presents public arts projects like this one. She describes the turbulent process of creating her new mammoth piece, and all of them really. She says that her work often makes even her uncomfortable, which is somehow comforting.

The left hand gesture of the mysterious sugary Sphinx captures the eye of artist Mike Ming who asks Ms. Walker what it signifies. The artist fingers her necklace and displays the charm hanging from it – a forearm and a hand forming the same fist-like pose.

“It means many things, depending on the source,” she explains, and she lists fertility as one and a protective amulet as another. Our ears perk up when she says that in some cultures it is a signal akin to “fuck you” and she has also heard that it can mean a derogatory four-letter term for a part of the female anatomy. And what does this thumb protruding between the index and middle finger mean here? “You’ll have to ask her,” she says smiling and nodding her head upward to the bandana crowned silent one.

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

Speaking of female anatomy, Ms. Walker deliberately and remarkably screams silently in the face of sexual stereotypes that prevailed and dehumanized women of African descent for the majority of North American history with this exaggerated caricature and her arching back quarters hoisted to the heavens. We only use past tense in that sentence to reassure ourselves that those stereotypes are distant and not at all connected to us today, but this may require a healthy helping of sunny denial to maintain the perception as we travel throughout the land.

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

The spectacle here is pushed by the extended pelvis, the protruding nether regions, the amply plump breasts rather pressed together. The presentation may summon pleasant perturbations in some viewers, while setting off murderous riots of horror in others, but we’ll all keep our associations to ourselves, thank you.

This is the giant white sphinx in the living room, sparkling white and sweet.  Congratulations to “Subtlety” for at least partially hushing a PC crowd of normally chatty New Yorkers who struggle to make cocktail talk in the shadows of our heritage, and for that matter, our present. We feel lucky that this sphinx does not speak, for she would likely slaughter much with her tongue.

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

Accompanying the sphinx are more human scale children of molasses coloring, “Sugar Babies” standing before craggled industrial walls that are coated with the thick, dark brown syrup obtained from raw sugar during the refining process. She says the five foot tall figures are based on the trinkets of porcelain once sold widely, featuring adorably cherubic slaves carrying baskets into which you may place colorful hard candies for special guests of some refinement.

On a technical note, she offers special thanks to the fabricating sculptors who struggled with the amber candy material as it reacted to changes in temperature and humidity. The floor itself had to be power-washed to loosen and dispel an inch of thick goo, and as we spoke she pointed to the dripping of a molasses type of liquid from the ceiling onto the sculpture. Asked by the CT team if the sphinx should be whitened each time there was a drip, the artist decided that she likes the dripping effect so they will leave it as is and watch how the piece ages with the history of the building.

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

For those who will be drawn like bees to honey to this unprecedented monument of site specificity in a place directly welded to Brooklyn’s maritime history, America’s industrialization and its slave economy, Ms. Walker now transforms into a stomping giant before our eyes. To those who prefer the truly subtle, this show will be overlooked as too obvious.

Kudos to Creative Time, its director Anne Pasternak, and Ms. Walker for putting our face in it, even as we bemoan the loss of this soon-to-be demolished building and its connection to our history.

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

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Kara Walker. Detail. (photo via iPhone © Jaime Rojo)

 

At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected:
Kara Walker – A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby 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.

The exhibition will be open on May 10 – July 6, 2014. Free and open to the public – check here for more details.

 

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BSAPlease note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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