Artist Profile: Theaster Gates

Dorchester Projects, Copyright Theaster Gates, 2013

Dorchester Projects, Theaster Gates, 2013. Photo courtesy of artist’s website.

On December 20, 2013, The New York Times Magazine published a feature on Theaster Gates – the Chicago-based artist who is a pioneer in what is being classified as social practice art or community-based art.

Whatever the category, the article was a fantastic look inside the artist’s process, history and vision. It dove into his public projects on the South Side of Chicago, his urban interventions, his relationships with the neighbors on the block. It explained what had been set in motion and left us anxiously waiting to know what more will be accomplished.

soul manufacturing corporation at locust projects 2012

“Soul Manufacturing Corporation” at Locust Projects 2012. Photo Courtesy of Kavi Gupta Gallery.

Gates is an artist that creates anticipation, stirring in the viewer the desire and hope to re-imagine what can be conceived. His works combine object making, usually in the form of pottery, space development and public performance. He is both city planner, sculptor, activist and musician – and he laces those identities into a seamless practice that always reflects back to the community.

Gates has an eye. He sees beauty in what others have condemned; seeks out the architectural acmes in salvage yards, refashions the ordinary into something to ponder. Along with his eye, comes his perspective. Rather than settle on the aesthetic, he reflects on the public. And that is what imbues his work with so great a power.


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