Kim Dacres: Measure Me in Rotations
Through the alchemical transformation of object into art, Kim Dacres infuses her material with a new life force, one reaching far beyond its preordained purpose.
On View: Bantu Knots and Braids, Sculpted From Recycled TiresShirley Ngozi Nwangwa, The New York Times, 22 June 2023
Becoming an Artist Was a Dream Deferred for Sculptor Kim DacresJahunyia Healis, Observer, 1 June 2023
Dacres uses rubber from recycled tires to create sculptures celebrating the influential forces in her life. An act of sculptural translation, her work embodies the assertive energy and presence of the people, particularly the Black women, that shape her communities across Harlem and the Bronx - women the artist may personally know or encounter, as well as fictional characters, performers, athletes, and musicians that have forged her experience. While drawn initially to the rubber tire material for its uniquely accessible, forgiving, and malleable nature, the artist further mines the material's metaphorical resonances with her own personal experience and the broader cycle of injustice and oppression inflicted upon Black and Brown people in America. The parallels abound: used relentlessly until they're deemed broken or superfluous, discarded without thought or care - where others see waste, Dacres sees possibility; and with that vision comes a profound resiliency, solace, and ultimately joy. Through the alchemical transformation of object into art, Dacres infuses her material with a new life force, one reaching far beyond its preordained purpose.
In a process that the artist first began working with as an undergraduate student at Williams College, Dacres collects and disassembles tires of all kinds - car, motorcycle, bicycle, electric skateboard, etc. - from her neighborhood bicycle and auto shops, and then embarks on a complex path of shaping, layering, and connecting the loosened rubber elements to create the singular figurative forms of her work. In more recent years, the artist has integrated pressure-treated wood as the internal core, the bones of the sculpture, empowering her to shape increasingly ambitious and stylistically nuanced works. Claiming the classical bust form (historically reserved for male figures of ultimate, if not even immortal, authority) as the representative form for her community of women, she personifies each sculpture with distinctive anatomical elements, facial features, and, as a particular focus for this exhibition, hairstyles.
The sculptures in Measure Me in Rotations feature the natural hairstyles that Dacres observes across her community every day and drawing from her time working in New York City public schools - various numbers and combinations of buns, twists, and Bantu Knots - in an investigation of the multifaceted tensions inherent within Black women's self-presentation, and the reception of that presentation, in our contemporary social environment. Taken collectively, the works highlight the sculptural role that these hairstyles play in the daily lives of Black women and girls; underscoring the power of such styles, and women's authorship of them, to assert their personhood, to occupy space, to present themselves in the way they want to be seen, not in the way that others may want to see them.
The exhibition comprises ten new sculptures: eight busts mounted on round ash and red oak pedestals positioned in a winding line in the front gallery, leading to two standing sculptures that face one another in the back gallery. The positioning of the eight busts guide the viewer on a curving path through the two galleries, encouraging one to experience the works in-the-round and appreciate each sculpture in its full, three-dimensional complexity. While at first glance, the uniform black satin spray paint that provides the final layer of each work may elicit a sense of homogeneity, upon closer looking, one sees that each sculpture is comprised of specific, individual tire tread types, vertically aligned with meticulous precision. The artist devoted 15 months to sourcing and aggregating enough identical tread types to ensure she could sculpt each work with its own, uniform tread, infusing each sculpture with a distinctive visual identity - an assertion of the diversity and singularity of every experience. By integrating the precision and intentionality behind each hairstyle within the creation of each sculpture, Dacres's work underscores the struggle for authorship over one's own image and celebrates the assertive power of self presentation.
Kim Dacres (b. 1986, New York, New York; lives and works between Harlem and the Bronx, New York.; MS CUNY Lehman College, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, 2010; BA Williams College, Political Science, Art Studio, and Africana Studies 2008.) Dacres's work has been exhibited around the world, including recent solo exhibitions at Gavlak Gallery in Los Angeles, CA (2020) and Palm Beach, FL (2021), as well as group exhibitions internationally and within the U.S., including Black American Portraits at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA (2023) and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2021), Sounds of Blackness at The Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Philippines (2023), Godhead - Idols in Times of Crisis at Lustwarande 12th Edition, Tilburg, Netherlands (2022), Arrangements in Black at Phillips, New York, NY (2022), From a Place, Of a Place, presented by ArtNoir X regularnormal X Meatpacking District, New York, NY (2021), Through the Looking Glass, presented by UTA Artist Space, Beverly Hills, CA (2021). Dacres is the recipient of the Artadia New York Award Grant (2022).