Images from left to right: Theaster Gates. To Speculate Darkly, Sella My Wares and Other Gospel licks, Milwaukee Art Museum, 2010, Facebook Choir, Video and Porcelain Speakers.
Theaster Gates is an artist, musician, and “cultural planner” as well as director of arts program development for the University of Chicago. If pressed to describe his work in a single word, it would be “transformative.” In his performances, installations, and urban interventions, Gates transforms spaces, institutions, traditions, and perceptions.
Gates’s training as an urban planner and sculptor, and subsequent time spent in Japan studying clay, has given him keen awareness of the poetics of production and systems of organizing. Playing with these poetic and systematic moments, Gates has assembled gospel choirs, formed temporary unions, and used systems of mass production as a way of underscoring the need that industry has for the body.
His most recent work, City Ceramic Manufacturing Corporation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, will convert the entire museum into a ceramic production facility with the goal of making 40,000 ceremonial soul-food wares.
Currently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Gates has received awards from the Joyce Foundation and the Graham Foundation. In 2010 alone, he performed and exhibited at the Whitney Biennial and the Armory Show in New York; the Milwaukee Art Museum; Brunno David Gallery and Pulitzer Museum of Art in St. Louis; and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.
Gates also completed residencies with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan; Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland; and Artadia, New York.