In a single decade, Gates has incubated compelling new models for legacy building, social transformation, and making art. Encompassing sculpture, painting, ceramics, video, performance, and music, his art comes out of his explorations of value, economy, and material exchange in charged social contexts. In 2010, Gates created the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit platform aimed at galvanizing communities through neighborhood regeneration and the development of educational and arts programming and amenities. Many of the foundation’s initiatives have focused on the revitalization of Chicago’s South Side, creating hubs and archives for black culture, which serve as catalysts for discussions on race, equality, space, and history.
In the years since his participation in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Gates has received widespread international recognition for stirring works such as 12 Ballads for Huguenot House at Documenta 13 (2012) and Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr at the Venice Biennale in 2015, as well as major exhibitions at Fondazione Prada, Milan; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria; and Kunstmuseum Basel. His current academic affiliations with the University of Chicago; the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; and Colby College, Waterville, Maine, aid the evolution of earlier vocational pursuits in public service, urban planning, and religious studies.
Gates was born in Chicago, where he continues to live and work. Public collections include Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions include An Epitaph for Civil Rights, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011–12); The Listening Room, Seattle Art Museum (2011–12); Soul Manufacturing Corporation: To Make the Thing that Makes the Things, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2013); Processions, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2016); True Value, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2016); Black Archive, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016); How to Build a House Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2016); The Minor Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2017); and Black Madonna, Kunstmuseum Basel (2018, traveling to Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany).
Behind the Art
Theaster Gates: Slate Wall Drawing
Theaster Gates’s exhibition Amalgam at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, features some of the artist’s slate wall drawings. Watch as Gates creates one of these works in this time-lapse video, featuring music by Theaster Gates and the Black Monks.
(RED) Auction 2018
Theaster Gates and Sir David Adjaye join Bono to spearhead (RED)’s third auction of contemporary art and design, raising funds for the global fight against AIDS. As Gagosian prepares the preview exhibition, Gillian Pistell looks at the urgency of this vital cause.
Vision and Justice: A Convening
April 25–26, 2019
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Theaster Gates is participating in “Vision and Justice,” a two-day creative gathering that will consider the role of the arts in understanding the nexus of art, race, and justice. The program will emphasize short presentations, with the goal of outlining and catalyzing ideas for future work in art and justice around the country and the world. To attend the free event, register at www.boxoffice.harvard.edu. To live-stream the event, visit www.radcliffe.harvard.edu.
Theaster Gates. Photo: Julian Salinas
Black Artists Retreat 2019
October 11–12, 2019
Park Avenue Armory, New York
Theaster Gates will host his renowned Black Artists Retreat for the first time outside of Chicago. This iteration of the retreat, which Gates conceived of as re-creating the kind of public-spirited dialogue that the artist associates with the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, includes a public celebration with roller-skating, DJs, and performers amid an installation of some of the artist’s famous “housebergs”—7-foot-tall sculptural disco balls shaped like icebergs. To attend the event, purchase tickets at www.armoryonpark.org.
Gagosian is pleased to announce the representation of Theaster Gates. In a single decade, Gates has incubated compelling new models for legacy building, social transformation, and making art. Encompassing sculpture, painting, ceramics, video, performance, and music, his art both derives from and sustains ambitious urban renewal projects—creating hubs and archives for Black culture, which serve as catalysts for discussions on race, equality, space, and history. Aspects of Gates’s oeuvre suggest the almost shamanic role of worker and artisan, where the power of the unseen is harnessed and manifested in the ordinary and everyday. In his abstract compositions made out of new and used roofing materials—tar, rubber, slate—working-class labor, ritual, and formalism intersect and are imbued with religious potency.
Photo: Sara Polley
Opening this Week
The Black Image Corporation
April 25–July 28, 2019
Gropius Bau, Berlin
Conceived by Theaster Gates, this exhibition looks at the legacy of the Johnson Publishing Company archive, which features more than four million images and has helped shape the aesthetic and cultural languages of the contemporary African American identity. Founded by John H. Johnson in 1942, the company created Ebony and Jet, two of the landmark publications for black American audiences. The participatory exhibition focuses on the works of Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton, two photographers whose works are in the collection. This exhibition has traveled from the Fondazione Prada in Milan.
Isaac Sutton, Moneta Sleet Jr., 1965. Photo: courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. All rights reserved
Through May 12, 2019
Palais de Tokyo, Paris
For his first solo museum exhibition in France, Theaster Gates explores social histories of migration and interracial relations by focusing on a specific episode in the American narrative—a situation of black subjugation and the imperial domination and racial mixing that resulted from it. The artist’s interest in this phenomenon has given rise to new sculptural, architectural, filmic, and musical perspectives in his oeuvre as he critically examines the history of land ownership and race relations in the northeastern United States.
Artwork © Theaster Gates
Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories
Through September 8, 2019
Colby Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine
This exhibition features nearly three thousand images from the Johnson Publishing Company, which since 1942 has chronicled the lives of black Americans through the magazines Ebony and Jet. Theaster Gates’s project, composed from this important archive of black visual culture, recontextualizes and reanimates these images and their histories, as Facsimile Cabinet is both a repository and an interactive archive.
Portrait of a woman from the archives of the Johnson Publishing Company. Photo: courtesy Theaster Gates
Through November 3, 2019
Fondation Carmignac, Porquerolles, France
Visitors are invited to take off their shoes before descending beneath the surface of the Provençal farmhouse where the exhibition is staged to discover more than sixty artworks from the collection, as well as important loans and new productions. Work by Theaster Gates and Roy Lichtenstein is included.
Theaster Gates, Gold Landscape in Three Strokes, 2017 © Theaster Gates