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Chakaia Booker exhibit punctuates grand opening of the Dumke Arts Plaza

By Deann Armes - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 1, 2021

Image supplied

Internationally recognized sculpture artist Chakaia Booker will display three recent works in "R E V I V E," the debut art exhibit at Dumke Arts Plaza opening Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, from 6-9 p.m.

The new Dumke Arts Plaza, opening with a public celebration on Friday from 6-9 p.m., will serve as an arts-focused community space that integrates the Weber State University campus and downtown Ogden. The inaugural exhibition, featuring the work of world-renowned American sculptor Chakaia Booker, was curated by WSU’s Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery with its relevance to the plaza in mind.

Booker’s monumental, abstract sculptures, constructed with materials such as repurposed automotive tire rubber, “(embody) characteristics that the plaza represents for Ogden: transformation and recontextualization,” said Lydia Gravis, director of art exhibitions and public programs at WSU.

It was Gravis who reached out to Booker directly, explaining the vision for the future Dumke Arts Plaza. Booker agreed to be the debut artist and worked with the WSU gallery in “good faith,” even though the groundbreaking for the plaza hadn’t yet occurred, Gravis said.

Coincidentally, and unknowingly at the time, Booker had lectured at Weber State in 2001, which came as a pleasant surprise to Gravis as plans were being made to bring the artist back to Ogden 20 years later for a solo exhibition.

“Chakaia titled her exhibition ‘R E V I V E’ after learning more about the history of the location and the visionary efforts put forth over the last few years to transform it from a privately owned and blighted motel into an inspiring arts-focused public gathering space,” Gravis said.

Image supplied, Ogden City

A rendering of the new Dumke Arts Plaza by Sasaki Associates.

The exhibition is a collection of three sculptural works that have traveled around the United States over the last few years, from Millenium Park in Chicago to Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, California, and Ogden in 2021 where Dumke Plaza visitors will be able to enjoy Booker’s work in three different parts of the plaza.

“Pass the Buck” on the plaza’s ground level is a large, round sculpture that shape-shifts from different angles as visitors encircle it.

Up a ramp, visitors will find “Gridlock” on the upper level of the plaza, a two-part sculpture positioned at different heights that is viewable from three different directions. “The tall, curved works have dynamic shape and position placement, and as viewers ascend the pathway, they’ll notice that the two parts of this sculpture seem to be in dialog with each other even though there’s a good amount of space between them,” Gravis said.

Also on the upper level of the plaza is a 3,000-pound, rectangular sculpture with a hollow center titled “What’s Not” that Gravis said was intentionally positioned to frame the Wasatch Mountains when viewers stand on the west side of it looking east.

Booker attached bicycle tires donated from Ogden Bicycle Collective to “What’s Not” while she was here in Ogden installing the work in November, Gravis said, “so this sculpture will carry a piece of Ogden with it to the next exhibition venue!”

Gravis explained the relevance of themes in Booker’s work to the arts plaza: “Considering the history of cars and transit, and the freedom they afford, the automotive tires that she uses inherently symbolize upward mobility, expansion and possibility. This new Dumke Arts Plaza represents the same for Ogden as it enhances the Nine Rails Arts District and eliminates the barriers inherently associated with traditional ‘white cube’ art galleries or museums that sometimes deter the masses from experiencing meaningful, thought-provoking art.”

All of the work on display in the exhibition, she said, has an abundance of texture and materials that contrast well with the backdrop of the plaza itself. And because Booker works abstractly, “each visitor will experience the sculptures uniquely.”

As for the future, Gravis said, “Weber State University was thrilled to curate this inaugural exhibition and we look forward to the possibility of future curatorial involvement and collaboration at the Dumke Plaza.”

The grand opening of the Dumke Arts Plaza, on the corner of 25th Street and Ogden Avenue, will serve as the premiere of the plaza’s inaugural exhibition by Booker, combined with the “Beacon,” a permanent sculptural piece that extends from the plaza over 25th Street. Invited speakers will make brief remarks at 6:15 p.m. and performances will take place throughout the evening.

All are invited and encouraged to attend the celebration on Friday at 445 25th St. during Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll.

For more information about the Dumke Arts Plaza, visit ogdencity.com/DumkeArtsPlaza. Ogden City encourages community members and organizations interested in hosting arts programming and events at the Dumke Arts Plaza to visit the website for more information.

For more information about the Booker exhibition presented by Weber State, visit weber.edu/shawgallery/upcoming.html. The exhibition will be on view to the public through May 15, 2022. The exhibition is presented in partnership with Ogden City and Ogden Contemporary Arts and is made possible by the support of the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation, the Matthew S. Browning Center for Design and the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities.

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