The first thing you notice is the smell. It’s a bit industrial, but also, maybe a tiny bit pleasant.
The odor encapsulates Chakaia Booker’s latest massive sculptural work, displayed as part of the “Wonder” exhibition at the recently reopened Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The piece, like its smell, might be at home on a factory floor. It is a bit dark and threatening. But, there’s also something inviting about both the odor and the artwork. It draws you into the room, to stroll between the sculpture’s three undulating walls, and to touch their seemingly animated shreds.
From a distance, the sculpture recalls a school of swimming fish, or an orderly grouping of fall leaves. But these forms are constructed of tires that have been shredded and diced and sliced and then wrapped around stainless steel.