With a background in urban planning and religious studies, Theaster Gates’ work explores the ways history, place and performance intersect. Gates wears many hats, including cultural producer, activist and performer. His past site-specific installations have employed what he terms, “critique through collaboration.” For example, in a recent installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the artist transformed the museum’s sculpture court with spare, architectural forms fabricated from recycled wood, calling on his interest in Eastern philosophy and art. Gates then invited a number of collaborators, including historians, artists and street musicians, to add to the space their own “commentary, bling, and acts of sincerity.”
Incorporating a vast array of disciplines, Gates’ solo exhibition at SAM will transform the gallery with cultural ephemera. Coupled with objects and architectural elements that elicit stories through every day practices, the backbone of the installation will be a collection of vinyl records that reflect cultural and social currents of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Theaster Gates is the 2011–2012 recipient of the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship.