Curated Storefront, Quaker Square at the University of Akron

How can artists repurpose materials, memories, and spaces into something new?

Quaker Square is the former factory of the iconic American brand Quaker Oats. Built in 1886, the factory ceased production in 1970; the building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Although threatened with demolition, the site has undergone a series of transformations, reemerging over the years as a luxury hotel, a shopping mall, and college dorms for the University of Akron. Mostly shuttered since the early 2000s, for FRONT 2022 this landmark of the Akron skyline features work by three artists that explore history and regeneration: Alyssa Taylor Wendt, Chakaia Booker, and Charmaine Spencer. The Quaker Galleries at Quaker Square are presented by Curated Storefront.

Wendt’s video T M I (2021) navigates the abstract concept of inherited memory as presented in Carl Jung’s writings on building as symbols of the soul. Using abandoned commercial public spaces such as malls, hospitals, nightclubs, and stores, she presents these interiors as one unified body of the spirit, connected by doorways, ruins, performances and song. Like visitors from our past and future selves, dancers, pianists, professional whistlers, gospel singers, and other performers into a rich landscape of cross-cultural expression. T M I evokes collective memory as a tool with which we can stay lucid in unfamiliar worlds.

Engaging with another significant aspect of regional industry, Booker is known for her nearly alchemical transformations of rubber tires into gestural, elegiac sculptures. Alongside her sculptures at Quaker Square is an extensive survey of her work with the Robert Blackburn Printshop in New York City, the oldest and longest-running community print shop in the country. Spanning Chine collé, monoprints, lithographs, and woodblocks, the dialogue between her two- and three-dimensional works provides a unique perspective on her process.

Constructed from old wall lathing salvaged from demolished homes around Cleveland, Spencer’s sculpture Choir is a critical and sympathetic look at community dynamics and healing. Initially conceived as a two-dimensional piece, it evolved into a complex web that relies on the play between gravity and support. “The separate pieces represent individuals, bound in tension, tied to the fortunes of their neighbors,” she writes. From these independent pieces, the sculpture becomes iterative, taking new shape with each subsequent presentation.

Alyssa Taylor Wendt, T M I, 2021. Color video with sound, 34 minutes 26 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Chamber/Antichamber Productions. © Alyssa Taylor Wendt. Photography by Field Studio.
Chakaia Booker, Installation view, Rubber tires and wood. Courtesy of the artist. © Chakaia Booker. Photography by Field Studio.
Charmaine Spencer, Installation view at Quaker Square, Courtesy of the artist. © Charmaine Spencer. Photography by Field Studio.

FRONT exhibitions in Akron are presented by Richard and Alita Rogers, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, GAR Foundation, and the Akron Community Foundation.

135 S Broadway St
OH 44308
Quaker Galleries Exterior Corner photo no photo credit