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Chakaia Booker Transforms Salvaged Tires into Art at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Chakaia Booker, The Fatality of Hope, 2007; rubber tire and wood, 85 x 201 x 32 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Marlborough Gallery, New York; photo: Will Brown.

DENVER.- Since the early 1990s, Chakaia Booker has worked almost exclusively with recycled tires. Through a physically demanding process of twisting, slicing, and weaving found rubber tires, she forms dynamic, whimsical sculptures that fuse ecological concerns with questions about racial and economic differences, globalization, and sociopolitical power structures. The exhibition RubberMade: Sculpture by Chakaia Booker surveys the past eight years of production by one of today’s leading American artists. Featuring two dozen sculptures, the exhibition is on view through August 17, 2008, at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Museum admission is free.

The exhibition RubberMade: Sculpture by Chakaia Booker will open with a free, public reception, Friday, June 6, 5:30–7:30 p.m.

Booker reclaims her tires from roadsides, abandoned lots, salvage yards, and city dumps. In her studio, which was once a commercial laundry facility, the artist uses an arsenal of machinery and small cutting tools to perform the arduous task of shredding and pulling apart the elements of tires. The variety of tire lengths and fragments are then folded, twisted, and knotted into abstract forms—a process that is physically demanding and, at times, painful.

Booker draws upon the inherent characteristics of the tires—their black color, steel belts, and various tread patterns—to create her expressive and complex sculptures. In the exhibition’s catalogue, Curator Christopher Cook writes, “Encountering the occasional patch of tar or dust and the off-gassing of an acrid, seemingly toxic aroma, viewers are constantly reminded of the rubber sculptures’ industrial origins.” Her sculptures range from small wall-mounted works to massive monumental installations, including the exhibition’s It’s So Hard To Be Green (2000), measuring more than 200 square feet.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Booker graduated in 1976 with a BA in sociology from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and in 1993 attained a Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from City College of New York, New York. Currently, the artist lives and works in New York City and Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome 96-page catalogue with an essay by exhibition curator and Kemper Museum Curator Christopher Cook; an interview with the artist by Valerie Cassel Oliver, curator of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; and color plates of each work in the exhibition. It sells for $29.95. The publication is made possible by generous support from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

This summer, Chakaia Booker also opens an exhibition of outdoor sculptures in Indianapolis (July 22, 2008–April 1, 2009). Her work is also included in an exhibition, on view May 15–June 27, 2008, at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center, New York.

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