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Tire Treads Twist into Braids and Knots in Kim Dacres’ Celebratory Busts of Black Women
July 24, 2023
Artist Kim Dacres prefers materials with history, those with scars from the world and where, as the saying goes, the rubber meets the road. She molds used tires from motorcycles, bikes, and cars into figurative sculptures that are celebratory and corrective, honoring the Black women who have influenced her and addressing the challenges many have faced. “Used relentlessly until they’re deemed broken or superfluous, discarded without thought or care— where others see waste, Dacres sees possibility,” says a statement about her transformation of the material. “And with that vision comes a profound resiliency, solace, and ultimately joy.”
Portraying subjects both real and imagined, many of Dacres’ most recent works consider questions of self-expression and presentation. Coated in sleek, black spray paint and weighing, at times, upwards of 90 pounds, the sculptures feature natural hairstyles like braids, dreads, and Bantu knots that, in white spaces, have historically been questioned for their respectability and professionalism.
Dacres first used tires in 2008 for her undergraduate senior thesis show at Williams College. She spent the next decade in education, working as a teacher, middle school principal, and professor, and in 2017, she returned to the material and her practice.
Her most recent exhibition Measure Me in Rotations, held earlier this summer at Charles Moffett Gallery in New York, brought together a series of works that reference the students she met in the classroom and those in her communities in Harlem and the Bronx, where she lives and works, respectively. Emphasizing the power of hair to assert one’s identity, Dacres uses the unique tread, texture, pattern, and malleability of the tires to form individual characteristics. Smooth, inner tubing peeks through the knots in “Bintou,” while strips of sliced rubber cascade down the figure’s head in “Britt.”
An earlier work, titled “Hope,” is a prime example of Dacres’ desire to draw metaphoric parallels between the material and the subject. Referencing the histories of the Great Migration and Caribbean and African immigration that brought many Black people north, the figure appears to both scream and mouth the word “hope.” She explains:
Hope, in part, inspires the voluntary migration away from family, friends, and familiarity and towards the newness of place and the messiness of acculturation. The feeling instigates the momentum. We move for hope. We plan with hope in mind. Hope is the feeling of the future. The material embodies the idea of travel and ultimately, the friction needed to propel forward and away from home.
Dacres has a two-person exhibition with artist April Bey (previously) slated for June 2024 at UTA Artist Space in Atlanta. She was also recently featured in the books Black American Portraits and Black Power Kitchen. Find more of her work on her site and Instagram.
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