Originally installed at the Smith Museum of Art in Northampton, MA
Gift of Richard D. Cohen
The Cooper Gallery Permanent Collection
Sugar/Bittersweet is a sculptural, atmospheric spatial work comprised of 25 antique spears installed on small stools, decorated with condensed sugar and resin-cast 'donuts'. Created by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons in 2010, it is a deeply introspective work in which the artist explores her connection to the greater Cuban history of sugar processing mills. The work is large, complicated to assemble, and voluminous - it occupies an entire room. The enormity of its presence is directly proportional to the painstaking efforts it took to create; Campos-Pons took inspiration for the sugar 'donuts' from the Cuban 'Panela' brand unrefined, condensed sugar discs. As explained in the image below, these discs are created by boiling and evaporating sugar cane juice to separate it from the sugar granules. To recreate these discs for Sugar/Bittersweet, Campos-Pons employed her signature glassblowing craftsmanship and created a mold from the Panela discs to cast copies in green glass, black glass, and sugar.
Campos-Pons follows the nebulous current of memory through the creation of liminal spaces like Sugar/Bittersweet, in which she contends with the sordid history of the Cuban sugar mill industry and her relationship to it in a childhood spent living in a former sugar mill plantation.
"I have had the pleasure of studying and working with Magda for many, many years and it was an honor to include her installation, Sugar/Bittersweet, in Nine Moments for Now. Magda has a keen sense of history and her work provides incisive commentary on the long-lasting impact of sugar plantations and chattel slavery not only on Cuba but also the world. Her use of materials, color and form leave the viewer with not only beautiful experiences but also with space for reflecting upon the profound ways that colonization has shaped the Americas."
-Dell M. Hamilton, curator