Friday, April 4, 2014

Wild, Chakaia Booker

Thanks to "Sculpture for New Orleans", my daily commute is  lined up  with sculptures along the Poydras corridor. Furthermore, I park right across FOCI, an outdoor work from Chakaia Booker.
I discovered the artist a few years ago at the New Orleans Museum of Art where one of her sculpture is included in the permanent collection.
Her medium, rubber tires, exude violence. The rubber produced by forced labor in African countries like Congo is a commodity traded daily and takes a historical, cultural and economic significance. The artist's gesture to create the sculpture transforms the medium into a powerful source of associations. Slashing, slicing, twisting the multi-shades black material, she gives birth to rebellious, lively, rough, exuberant, organic compositions and offers a reflection on colonization,  industrialization, consumerism, environmental concerns. Playing with smoothness and roughness, the reflection of the lights, her pieces transform rubber a rather masculine material into sensuous, haptic works like the piece at NOMA which could represent a headdress for a queen and/or a warrior. The references to her African-American heritage are not lost with the shades of black from the rubber and the scarification marks on the tires. The artist reaches far beyond the New Jersey shorelines where she found her inspiration in the dumps.

My next encounter was during Art Basel Miami Beach where one of her sculpture was displayed in the park surrounding the Bass Museum of Art.

What about the sculpture on Poydras? If the roughness of the material is still present with squares of rubber covering a metal skeleton like the abandoned carapace of a strange animal, the twisted sculpture appears contrived. The lifeless pole with a black tarp-like construction stretched on it, competes with a palm tree and melts in the bleary neighborhood, a no man's land filled with parking lots, the end of the corridor leading to the Interstate.

A sculpture for nowhere.

photographs by the author

sculpture at the NOMA
"FOCI" on Poydras

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