Round-up of Articles on Kara Walker’s sugar baby

First:  Kara Walker’s sugar baby is NOT public art.  It is big sculpture.  To qualify as public art, the work must be accidentally available to any person in real space.  The best public art engages a public space that is truly owned and protected by a community of people.    Once behind the walls – like a strip club – the vast public allows anything as long as the establishment does not attract the “wrong crowd”.  If Walker’s sculpture was in Times Square, the citizen response would be vastly different.  And we would have citizen response instead of response from only arts interested  people.

Second:  I reviewed the reviews.  The editors of every writer must require a description of the work that unfortunately takes up nearly all the words.  The writers and critics play a game of finding different ways to give their thoughts and opinions while reporting on the same facts.  A high school English teacher must endure this frequently while reading 30 book reports on the same book.

A laundry list of required talking points emerges

  • Kara Walker’s Silhouettes
  • Images of Black People in Popular Culture
  • Black Artists in a White Art Establishment
  • What is a Subtlety
  • Quote Kara Walker
  • Condos are Coming
  • History of Sugar and the Slavery of Africans in the Americas
  • Big Sugar, Bad Sugar
  • Sphinx
  • Sexualization of Black Women: Breasts and Vulva
  • Smells of Sugar
  • Made of Polystyrene and Sugar

Although mentioned, a few things have not really taken hold in the dialogue.  In other words, the required concept is mentioned, but the writers don’t really care to explore it beyond the fact.  Surprisingly the history the Sphinx is one downplayed item.   As is the subject of the title:  “subtlety”.

The  articles break down into three groups:  1. Descriptive writing with clever phases ( NY Times, New Yorker, etc.),  2. emotions that Walker brings forward from the history and daily lives of black women in the Americas and 3. art by Black artists in a white world.

Almost no writer concentrates on ONE thing.  It is like the work is so full of ideas and possible connotations that writers are afraid to stick with one thought.    Quite an accomplishment by Walker.

Here are few articles

Best compliation of ideas from reviews
SORAYA NADIA MCDONALD: Going to see Kara Walker’s ‘Subtlety?’ Read these first.

Best artistic reference
Ariella Budick: Kara Walker, Domino Sugar Factory, Brooklyn, New York – review
..”Langston Hughes conflated the phrase with chocolate skin tones in his lascivious ode to women of various shades:”

“Brown sugar lassie,
Caramel treat,
Honey-gold baby,
Sweet enough to eat.”

Best confession by a white person
Mary Louise Schumacher: Kara Walker’s ‘Marvelous Sugar Baby’ more bitter than sweet

Sex photos by the public
Cait Munro: Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx Spawns Offensive Instagram Photos

Big Sugar today – Pepe and Alfy Fanjul
Carol Diehl’s Art Vent: Dirty Sugar: Kara Walker’s dubious alliance with Domino

Explains the amazing lack of rats and ants
Katherine Brooks: Debunking the Myths of Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx

Statistics on Black/White museum attendance
Jamilah King: The Overwhelming Whiteness of Black Art

General Stuff by Good Writers
Roberta Smith: Sugar? Sure, but Salted With Meaning
Jerry Saltz: Kara Walker Bursts Into Three Dimensions, and Flattens Me


Aesthetic Grounds Blog Entries:  Kara Walker Tangents

Sexual Sphinx

Ernst Fuchs

Other Big Animals

All Roads to Mammy’s Kitchen

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