Sunday, May 17, 2009

Treading Forth: Recent Works by Chakaia Booker

[“Tagged,” “Open Chart,” and “Minor Adjustments,” (2009). Acrylic & acid-free paper on prepared wood panels. “Tooth Fairy,” (2009) rubber tire, wood, and steel. “Phobic Digression,” (2006) rubber tire and stainless steel. “Inside Reading,” (2009) rubber tire, wood, and steel.]

Featuring 13 sculptures in Chakaia Booker’s signature medium of sliced, cut, and reconstructed rubber and rubber tires, her show “Recent Work, 2003-2009” will be at Marlborough Gallery’s Chelsea location through May 30, 2009. It will also showcase a range of her formats, including pedestal and totem pieces, wall-mounted reliefs, and her most recent (and large scale) standing works. Included will be her seminal work “Muse” (2009), whose serene and organic shapes mix, flow, and fall as if propelled by Miles Davis’ muted trumpet pushing out “In a Silent Way.”

Over the past 10 years Booker has gained significant acclaim for her poetic body of work. Highly expressive, socially evocative, and with humor, the output of this self-proclaimed “Rubber Queen” is about mobility and growth. Rubber has been used on the moon, Booker asserts, and a wall or relief using old tires suggests archeological finds and the deciphering of patterns and textures into new languages or symbols. In a dialogue with viewers, Booker hopes to translate these countless Goodyears, Firestones, and Michelins into imagery that will generate a greater environmental consciousness.

Booker aligns her work squarely with the distinctly materialist approach of Louise Nevelson and Nancy Rubin. Born in Newark in 1953, she realized her interest in art by observing and participating in the textile work of her grandmother and sister. In fact, Booker embodies a degree of personal assemblage: Various layered factors of her life culminate in her work, including her sociology background at Rutgers and profound explorations of constructs such as slavery, the industrial revolution, and class consciousness.

Such layers upon layers of her work with these discarded black tires also firmly address issues related to Booker’s African-American identity. The tires symbolize the strength of this multifaceted community, while color variations address inner-community issues of color consciousness. The very act of salvaging such “defiant beauty” from cast-off material speaks to the resilience of the African-American heritage through the various traumas it has passed, such as the Middle Passage, slavery, Reconstruction, retrenchment, backlash, and malaise. The very assemblage of her work connotes tread patterns and repetitive geometric shapes reminiscent of traditional African textiles.

Booker’s work has been shown in a range of impressive venues, including the Metropolitan Museum (New York), The New School for Social Research, The Studio Museum of Harlem, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (Grand Rapids), and the Neuberger Museum of Art (Purchase). She is a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation award and a Guggenheim fellowship.

Recent Work 2003-2009: Chakaia Booker

@ Marlborough Chelsea

Through May 30, 2009

545 West 25th Street NYC 10001

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