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Chakaia Booker, Serendipity

Chakaia Booker • 1999/2019 • Recylced Tires, Hardware • Military Park

The central question driving the exhibition, what is a timely monument for Newark, is echoed in an installation of Newark native Chakaia Booker’s Serendipity. Rather than building monuments from bronze or stone, Booker repurposes discarded tires as the raw materials for monumental public art. In Serendipity, she transforms the everyday byproduct of a rubber tire found throughout post-industrial cities into an intricately designed sculptural question mark, held together, piece by piece, in an interlocking system of components she configured specifically for the site of Military Park. The expansive, undulating question mark functions as a frame to view the park anew and a shield from its established sightlines. As Booker has remarked of this work in a previous installation, “the word ‘serendipity’ is about finding something accidentally and then having it turn into something valuable.” Serendipity pushes viewers to consider monuments not as answers, but as starting points to engage memory and presence in the city.

This is the first time Booker’s work is shown publicly in Newark and on the twentieth anniversary of its premiere in the Public Art Fund’s Beyond the Monument exhibition in New York City’s MetroTech Commons.

Fabrication: Adrian Van Putten, Alston Van Putten Jr., and Alston Va Putten Sr.

Partners: New Arts Justice Initiative at Rutgers University-Newark; Mayor Ras Baraka and the City of Newark; Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience; Rutgers University-Newark Departments of African-American and African Studies and Creative Writing Program; Express Newark; John Cotton Dana Library; Military Park Partnership; Newark Arts Festival; the Newark Museum; Project for Empty Space; and SHINE Portrait Studio.