Shredding Art – One Tire At A Time

Renowned artist Chakaia Booker debuts show at Moravian

The smell of rubber filled the gallery as attendees marveled and gasped at the giant sculptures created out of scrap tires.

CM Shredders

The industrial-like odor is from Chakaia Booker’s latest installment at Moravian University’s Payne Gallery.

Booker, an internationally renowned artist, has shown at some of America’s finest museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Renwick’s Wonder Gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Contemporary Institute of Art in Miami, Florida.

On display in Bethlehem are well-known sculptures like Dorothy’s Shoes (2012) and “Wrench (Wench) II,” (2001), plus some of her abstract colleacute; prints that are created from paper.

Booker’s early days as an artist began in the 80s, while residing in New York City’s East Village..

In the 90s, Booker started experimenting more with tires with the mindset of creating large, abstract public art for outdoor spaces.

Her “It’s So Hard to be Green,” which was exhibited at the Whitney Museum Biennial in 2000, stands at 12 feet, while her “Shaved Portions,” which she designed for the Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis, is 77 feet long and 35 feet high.

Her sculptures can be found in parks and public spaces in Jersey City, New Jersey and Hamilton, Ohio.

Each sculpture is designed to be as unique as the tires themselves.

Tire codes and manufacture location are evident on the sculptures–mixed in with the jags, grooves, treads and wearing down of the tires, which Booker says evokes the physical marks of human aging.

In her earlier years, she collected tires at scrap yards and used car repair shops.

She now has a business relationship with companies such as Michelin, which send her discarded wheels from race cars and motorbikes.

Most of the art is made at her studio in Allentown– an old storage facility that resembles more of an auto-body shop than an art studio and is stacked with tires waiting to be shredded by power tools.

Chakaia Booker’s exhibition runs through Dec. 10 at the Payne Gallery, 346 Main Street, Bethlehem. The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Entry is free.

© Scrap Tire News, December 2023