Chakaia Booker at Newcomb Art Gallery

Chakaia Booker, Color of Hope, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Newcomb Art Gallery, New Orleans.

Chakaia Booker
Newcomb Art Gallery
Tulane University
August 12–October 2, 2014

Chakaia Booker transforms discarded tires into elegant sculptures that demonstrate a wealth of textures and tones. From delicate, tactile surfaces to sinuous curves, the rigidity of the commonplace object is gone. Instead, the works emphasize the tire’s purpose--motion. In Color of Hope, 2010, slices of tire curl around a large patchwork of rubber pieces in a beautiful interplay of soft and jagged forms. The variety of tire treads adds to the abstract frenzy of the wall relief’s tightly packed rubber, which includes a bed of thin tubing reminiscent of sea vegetation. There’s a similar life to the large free-standing pieces throughout the space. Eerily anthropomorphic, Mixed Messages, 2005, features a head-like orb rising from a tumultuous mass of rubber and thinly sliced coils that trail to the floor. In (Wrench)(Wench) II, 2001, spikes of tires cascade along a serpentine form bounded by metal crescents. While the title hints at traditional gender norms, the curvilinear form and layers of rubber create the sense of an object that has only temporarily stopped at rest. In general, what makes the works in the exhibition so interesting is how difficult it is to distinguish celebration from threat. This is never more true than in Industrial Perpetousity, 2001, with its two massive fans of rubber-encased wood. The exposed bolts and screws--tough and laborious--contrast the quilt-like intricacy of the small interlocking pieces in what looks like two surging waves. Converted from everyday object to versatile and enigmatic substance, Booker’s rubber sculptures demonstrate the productive power of deconstruction. If they don’t crush us, they just might cleanse us.

Chakaia Booker, Wrench (Wench) II, 2001. Rubber tires, steel, and wood. Courtesy the artist and Newcomb Art Gallery, New Orleans.