It’s Bye-bye Baby for Kara Walker’s Sphinx

THE DAILY PIC: A video shows the dismantling of an ephemeral giant.

Kara Walker

THE DAILY PIC: I assume this will be my last chance for a while to talk about the giant sugar-coated sphinx Kara Walker had up in Williamsburg last summer, and which is getting a good-bye of sorts at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York. In a show aptly titled “Afterword”, the gallery has up a bunch of drawings for and about the sugar piece, as well as the single hand that remains of it and a six-minute video called Rhapsody that documents the work’s dismantling. (My Daily Pic is a still taken from that video.) The deinstallation is presented with Emanuel Chabrier’s cheesy España as its orchestral soundtrack, which Walker describes as full of “bombast and moxie” – making clear that she knows such adjectives should apply to her sphinx as well, and that she revels in its absurd overstatement. The video gets at something else that’s vital about her piece: Despite its scale and ambitions, it was always meant to come apart once again. Any grandiosity in the sphinx was balanced by poignancy.

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