Founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, Theaster Gates (b. 1973, Chicago, Illinois) is an artist and innovator in the field of social practice, combining strategies of urban planning, object making and performance. Gates is internationally recognized for his work on the South Side of Chicago, including Dorchester Projects, Black Cinema House, and the upcoming Stony Island Arts Bank and Dorchester Artists Housing Collaborative. Gates’ work both in museums and in communities responds creatively to the challenges of space. In 2013, Gates opened the Arts Incubator in Washington Park. The renovated building is now home to artist residencies, a design apprenticeship program, exhibitions, performances and talks. Gates has exhibited and performed at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Punta della Dogana, Venice; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany; among others. He has received awards and grants from Skowhegan, Creative Time, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, United States Artists, Creative Capital, the Joyce Foundation, Graham Foundation, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and the Artadia New York Residency.
The impetus for collectivity should be rooted in fellowship—amassing bodies, objects, and ideas into a form that begets conversation and criticality in a shared environment. Aggregating information into projects is a cooperative endeavor between Theaster Gates (b. 1973) and those he works with, reimagining the detritus of material culture into environments and spaces of value. The resultant forms vary, from works of art to archives and small businesses. Early experiments in this collaborative thrust began with a large collection of glass lantern slides, an abandoned house in the seemingly derelict Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and a vision. Later gestures have included the development of nonprofit arts organizations, libraries, conferences, exhibitions, and mixed-income housing. Gates has an affinity for cultural objects, both as potent sites of information and as carriers of histories. He possesses the ability to transform language and ideas into structures that rearticulate a need for presence and visibility.
Gates is part of a wider trajectory of artists who use the materiality of the built environment—both its physical and its social manifestations—as a platform for critical inquiry, provoking dialogue about archaic notions of equity, inclusion, and land use. This version of institutional critique co-opts the structures that perpetuate the aforementioned antiquated positions to bring awareness to their inherent failures. Situating his practice alongside and within these systems provides an opportunity for Gates and his collaborators to reconfigure the same tools, ideas, people, and objects to a better end.
For Prospect.3, Gates will present works from two of his iconic series, Civil Tapestries, and the Tar paintings”. The “Civil Tapestry” series alludes to the fire hoses traditionally directed by the police at Civil Rights Marches. The artist has created a beautiful painting using colorful strips of decommissioned fire hose, tonally arranged and sewn together. The use of tar in the Tar Painting Series is both political and personal since it is inspired, in part, by Gates’ father who tarred roofs for a living. In addition, the artist will be working in collaboration with the Ashé Cultural Arts Center with the aim to establish a business venture in New Orleans following his “Dorchester Projects” model.