Poets Create ‘Verbal Sculptures’ Inspired by Chakaia Booker Exhibition at Drexel

Contemporary American sculptor and printmaker Chakaia Booker.
Contemporary American sculptor and printmaker Chakaia Booker in front of a large-scale sculpture made from recycled tires.

Amidst large-scale sculptures made from recycled tires by contemporary American sculptor and printmaker Chakaia Booker, local poets will create poems, or ‘verbal sculptures,’ inspired by the themes of the artwork currently on display at Drexel University. The exhibition of Booker’s work, Are We There Yet?, includes sculptures, paintings and prints that explore issues of race, gender, globalization and more. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., four of the city’s top poets from The Philly Pigeon poetry organization will present “Verbal Sculpture: A Poetic Gallery Tour,” a curated tour-performance of the Booker exhibition. The Pearlstein Poets in Residence include Kai Davis, Kirwyn Sutherland, Jacob Winterstein and Lauren Yates.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will engage the poets to create spoken word pieces inspired by Booker’s evocative works, creating a responsive dialogue about the themes found in the exhibition.

Prior to the performance, a writers' open studio will take place in the gallery at 6:30 p.m., during which the featured poets will provide prompts based on the exhibition for visitors to engage in a self-directed writing exercises. This is also free and open to the public, with no registration required.

A sculpture entitled "Industrial Perpetuosity" by Chakaia Booker.

The poems featured in the Feb. 18 performance will be digitally archived and available as an audio tour experience for the remainder of the exhibition.

This event marks the gallery’s second poetry residency. The first poetry collaboration took place in Nov. 2014, when students from Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania participated in a pop-up poetry residency in response to Bill Walton’s minimalist sculptures. The residency included a public reading and a writing workshop that focused on themes and aesthetics in Walton’s work.

Are We There Yet? is on display in the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (3401 Filbert Street) of Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design through Sunday, March 8. The gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information, please contact the gallery at 215.895.2548 or gallery@drexel.edu.

A sculpture by Chakaia Booker entitled “Handle With Care” (34.5” x 98” x 11”).

According to a New York Times review of a previous exhibition of Booker’s work, “Black rubber tires, cut up and recycled into sculptures, are Chakaia Booker's tough, aggressive signature medium, and in this show they are given even more expressive power…To Ms. Booker, black symbolizes the strength of African identity, suggests Charlotta Kotik of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in a catalog preface to the show, but her stress on the color's nuances is meant to evoke the complexities of black's human application…Ms. Booker's fluency with her recalcitrant material deserves close study. Old tires never die, but in Ms. Booker's hands they become pure poetry.”

About the Philly Pigeon
The Philadelphia Pigeon is a local nonprofit poetry organization. Their monthly poetry slam and workshop series hosted at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMoCA) have made it a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grantee and Philadelphia Magazine “Best of Philly” winner. Last year, poets from The Philly Pigeon were finalists at the National Poetry Slam. For more information, visit http://thephillypigeon.webs.com/.

About Chakaia Booker
An artist who fuses formal training with life experience, Booker gained international acclaim at the 2000 Whitney Biennial with "It’s So Hard to Be Green," her 12.5 x 21 foot wall-hung tire sculpture. Booker is a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and she has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. Her works are in numerous public collections, including at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Orleans Museum of Art; The Studio Museum, Harlem, New York; Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; Laumeier Sculpture Park and Museum, St. Louis, Missouri; Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York; Newark Museum, New Jersey; Bronx Museum of Art, New York; and the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama.

About the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery
The Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, part of Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, is committed to exhibiting novel and experimental art in all contemporary mediums including digital, video, sculpture, photography, graphics and fashion design. Located in Westphal College’s renovated URBN Annex, the Pearlstein Gallery spans more than 3,500 square feet and invites the public to view exhibits free of charge. For more information, click here.