Chakaia Booker is the ultimate recycler. Her monumental abstract sculptures using discarded tires embody the ‘making something from nothing’ ethic. Encountering her work is overwhelming. It’s huge. It smells. It’s hard to imagine the physicality required in building with this unforgiving material. Looking at it is exhausting.
It’s also thrilling. That she has dared to transform ubiquitous detritus into spectacular work challenges me to forge ahead. I admire her strength and unique vision. Chakaia is an African American artist whose studio is necessarily in an industrial area outside of New York City where she has space to organize her oversize and unwieldy materials.
Being made from tires, her work is primarily black. But like the black paintings by Ad Rheinhart, the more you look, the more you see. I bet you never thought that black could come in so many different variations. Kind of like skin. And in this way, issues of race and consumption and ecology thread their ways through her work.
Although a football player couldn’t pierce this work, it reads as fiber and while not fragile, it is entirely textured, layered, complex and perfectly woven together. When I stand in front her work, I sigh, wish I had made it, and feel deeply grateful that Chakaia did.
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