Chakaia Booker (American, b. 1953) strikes a dramatic a figure when you see her. Her elaborate and oversized headdresses of patterned African cloth might be imposing to the uninitiated, but people who have met her say she is a quiet and reflective woman. In many ways, Booker’s clothing is like her art — transformational — and connects her to centuries of traditional African costuming. Each morning, before starting her day, she goes through a time-intensive procedure of wrapping and clothing of her body. It is a ritual that serves to remind her of her daily mission — that living creatively and making art is a process in which she has dedicated her life.
Indeed, Booker has channeled her creativity to reinvent and transform one of the most common man-made objects of the 20th century — the rubber automobile tire. Make no mistake — the process of cutting an old tire is very difficult. Booker must use heavy industrial tools to slice and rip the tires into the strips and calculated pieces she needs to do her work. Once reassembled and cleaned, these assemblages of black rubber absorb light and reveal a stunning array of black densities — which Booker says calls attention her African identity.
The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens will soon end a year-long exhibition of Booker’s work (May 8, 2012 - April 28, 2013). Aptly titled Defiant Beauty: The Work of Chakaia Booker, the exhibit features four large-scale works in steel and rubber in the Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden.
Booker received a bachelor of arts in sociology from Rutgers University in 1976 and an MFA from City University of New York in 1993. She has studied a variety of subjects, including African dance, ceramics and weaving, all of which influence her work in sculpture. Her work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bronx Museum of Art, Laumeier Sculpture Park and Museum, The Newark Museum, The Studio Museum of Harlem and many others.
30” x 22.5” Photogravure produced in collaboration with the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Southeastern Center for Printmaking in Atlanta, Georgia, 2010.
Phobic Digression, 2006 Rubber tires and steel 114 x 60 x 54 inches Exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art (May 8, 2012 – April 28, 2013) on loan to the Georgia Museum of Art courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York
Shhh, 2006 Rubber tires and steel 240 x 84 x 66 inches Exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art (May 8, 2012 – April 28, 2013) on loan to the Georgia Museum of Art courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York
One Way, 2008 Rubber tires and stainless steel 96 x 45 x 65 inches Exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art (May 8, 2012 – April 28, 2013) on loan to the Georgia Museum of Art courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York
Holla, 2008 Rubber tires and stainless steel 96 x 48 x 60 inches Exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art (May 8, 2012 – April 28, 2013) on loan to the Georgia Museum of Art courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York
Chakaia Booker speaks with a group from East Athens Community Center, Georgia.
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