Chakaia Booker & Carol Rama Against the Day

Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin 14 February – 25 March

- Rebecca O’dwyer

Against the Day combines prints and sculptures by Chakaia Booker with three mixed-media works by the late Carol Rama, whose estate the gallery manages. It takes place across three rooms. The first houses Booker’s Founding Warrior Quest ( 21 ) (2010), six photograph­s tracking the artist – a headscarve­d African-american woman – as she moves around a scrapyard. Wearing workwear and gloves, she inhabits this role with resolute but undefined purpose; as the sole survivor of a disaster, maybe, or weary hero arrived at a new frontier. Using grainy black-and-white, Booker here creates her own myth, and the scrapyard becomes the surface of the moon.

Across the following two rooms, Booker’s works comprise imposing, wall-based sculptures made from scrap automobile tyres. She pushes this loaded medium to its limit, and it yields.

In Random Request (2022), black rubber takes a strange, almost vaginal form, its extremitie­s twisted and pulled into feathery calligraph­ic shards. Elsewhere, the rubber is cut and pinned back much more precisely, in staccato rhythms echoing the repetition of the assembly line (Superstiti­on, 2010). In Booker’s fierce sculptures, the automobile – that icon of white America’s modernity – meets its own brilliant undoing.

After being declared bankrupt, Carol Rama’s father, Amabile, who owned an automobile and bicycle factory, took his own life in 1942. Perhaps inevitably, the dark shadow of this modernity is palpable in the Italian artist’s work. In Bricolage (1966) she aŒxes the canvas with everyday objects like nails and dolls’ eyes, to uncanny and disquietin­g e’ect. In Definizion­e d’usura (1977), flaccid inner tubes of bicycle tyres are hung from a wire frame atop a black canvas. Disembodie­d eyes, according to Freud, always represent castration anxiety; the meaning of deflated tubing hardly needs spelling out. In these works, Rama takes the myth of male productive genius and reveals the abject but comical horror at its heart.

Making a photograph ‘against the day’ means to shoot into the sunlight, forcing the subject into silhouette; counterint­uitive, in e’ect, because you’re working against nature. And both artists share this clarifying but contrary approach. While responding to very di’erent contexts, their work speaks to the violence of modernity and industrial production, and the figure of masculinit­y within it. With Booker’s works, more specifical­ly, we get a clear and sensuous study of American modernity, with the founding racial violence underpinni­ng it.

 ?? ?? Against the Day, 2023 (installati­on view). Photo: © Graysc / Dotgain. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Against the Day, 2023 (installati­on view). Photo: © Graysc / Dotgain. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin

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