In Black Moves First, NYC-based artist Kim Dacres brings together eight new sculptures where all chess-like pieces depict solely black female figures, based on characters from the artist’s own life – mother, grandmother, sisters, aunts. The show is on view through January 2, 2022 at GAVLAK Palm Beach.
What is the genesis of this exhibition?
Over the past year or so, I’ve developed a deep interest in the game of chess; its strategy, its aesthetics, its likeness to my own lived experience. The first rule of chess, of course, is that white makes the first move, and I questioned that. Another primary feature of the game is that there is only one female piece, represented by the queen. I questioned why that was, as well.
I began to restructure the game in such a way to eschew tradition–whiteness, gender as framed by whiteness and power, masculinity, and the spaces that routinely forget black women. In Black Moves First, each piece is inspired by a different woman in my life–my mother, grandmothers, aunts and sisters, who have guided how I experience my family’s Jamaican heritage, blackness, womanhood, and queerness in America. Their forms and stature nod to different chess roles while embracing the different archetypes women play as warriors, advisors, protectors, and guardians of family and friends in life.
I make all of these works alone. I collect recycled rubber materials from motorcycle and car tires, bicycle tires of various treads, and bicycle inner tubes. The materials are cut by hand using scissors and a jigsaw. They are wrapped around pressure treated wooden posts and secured using construction screws to create indications of muscle and skin. Bicycle tire inner tubes are braided together to become braids and bicycle tires are cut lengthwise to mimic locs of hair. All of the materials represent the experience of each individual archetype before the viewer encounters them. The materials show that this game is not the first. There is experience there.
The works are painted over with black spray enamel in order to blend the harshness of their past experiences and transform into a smooth skin of shiny resistance. And, the adornments they carry, chains and gears, are reimagined to be earrings, necklaces, and other indicators of femininity to represent tokens from past games. Together they are known as The House of Crown.
Please guide us through the show.
These figures of Black Moves First are empowered not only to move first, but to also move how they choose in order to defend themselves against the challenges posed by white spaces. The works are installed on a partial and truncated chess grid to convey feelings of being boxed in and pressured to find a way to navigate the grid and make it to the other side. In this way, I hope the show feels interactive to visitors, who become the white pieces. I hope the presence of the life size sculptures recalls the interrogation of how blackness and feminine power are navigated in white spaces while contemplating how the value of experience can be inexplicably denied upon first impression(s).
Kim Dacres is a first-generation American sculptor of Jamaican descent, who uses found tires and rubber from automobiles and bicycles to create sculptures inspired by people and ideas. The core of Dacres’ process involves collecting, wrapping, reassembling, and disassembling tires; eventually treating these materials with spray paint or enamel. Her sculptures are held together using screws and braiding techniques. In this process of material layering, the rubber is transformed into abstract shapes, evoking muscle, bone, skin, and hair. Fascinated by the complexities of varied personalities in her community, and the fragments of experience that tend to shape perception, Kim is committed to an ongoing practice of representing everyday people of color—exploring the paradigm of entitlement to space, honorifics and monuments.