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Used Tires Become Beautiful Sculptures that Explore Race, Gender and More in New Exhibition

January 07, 2015

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

"Old tires never die, but in Ms. Booker's hands they become pure poetry.” - New York Times

Recycled tires become complex assemblages that explore issues of race, gender, globalization and more in a new exhibition of work by contemporary American sculptor and printmaker Chakaia Booker, hosted by Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. In addition to sculptures, the exhibition, entitled Are We There Yet?, features paintings and prints, and will be on display in Drexel’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery from Tuesday, Jan. 13 through Sunday, March 8.

The gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. An opening reception, which will include a conversation with the artist, will be held on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. in the gallery (3401 Filbert Street).

A sculpture entitled "Industrial Perpetuosity" by Chakaia Booker.

“Chakaia Booker’s images – whether they be painting, print or sculpture – emerge from a deep well of both training and life experience,” said curator of the show J. Susan Isaacs, a professor of art history and curator of the Department of Art Galleries at Towson University, where the exhibition originated.

“The subjects of her works are found in the social, cultural, and global issues of our day such as feminism, racism and climate change," she said. "As an artist, she addresses these issues through visual metaphor, utilizing both abstract and recognizable elements that draw from the contemporary landscape, including graffiti and those ubiquitous discarded tires by the side of the road. But her works are deeper and more mysterious than these obvious references. They are powerful images that command attention, at once fanciful and solemn. Her works stand as testimony to art’s transformative impact, pushing us to ask significant questions about the world around us.”

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. Booker received a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Rutgers University in 1976, and a master of fine arts degree from the City College of New York in 1993.

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 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.


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