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John Foster

Defiant Beauty


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.

Definat Beauty
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.

Definat Beauty
New York artist Chakaia Booker with her work 3 made of rubber tires, wood and steel, at the Colorado State University Art Museum in 2010. (© RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Definat Beauty
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


Definat Beauty
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


Definat Beauty
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


Definat Beauty
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


Definat Beauty
Chakaia Booker speaks with a group from East Athens Community Center, Georgia.

Definat Beauty
Booker's work “Meeting Ends,” rubber tire, wood and stainless steel, was on display at Colorado State University Art Musuem in Fort Collins in 2010. (© RJ Sangosti | The Denver Post)

Definat Beauty
“It’s So Hard to Be Green”, by Chakaia Booker
Image © The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey


Definat Beauty
“It’s So Hard to Be Green” (detail) by Chakaia Booker
Image © The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey


Definat Beauty
“It’s So Hard to Be Green” (detail) Chakaia Booker
Image © The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey



In this short video, Chakaia Booker describes her commitment to art at ACA Gallery at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta.

Definat Beauty
Chakaia Booker at National Museum of Women in the Arts with “Acid Rain”, 2001; Image © Max Hirschfeld

Definat Beauty
“Mixed Message,” a sculptural wall piece at The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO in 2008.

Definat Beauty
“Tailgating,” outdoor sculpture, rubber and steel, image © Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Definat Beauty
“Tailgating (Detail),” outdoor sculpture, rubber and steel, image © Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Definat Beauty
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.

Definat Beauty
“No More Milk and Cookies,” outdoor sculpture, rubber and steel, image © Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Art

Comment 1  |     |     |   Like 84  |   Tweet 37
Comments [1]
very engaging works !! Thank you John!
Stephen ROmano
03.24.13
11:44



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