The Real-State Artist
June 10, 2020 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Theaster Gates first encountered creativity in the music of Black churches on his journey to becoming an urban planner, potter, and artist. Gates creates sculptures out of clay, tar, and renovated buildings, transforming the raw material of the South Side into radically reimagined vessels of opportunity for the community. (Art21 Video)

Theaster Gates speaks about his drawings and conceiving exhibitions (short interview, ArtForum)
My future of art is different from what art is today. When I build my school, I’m going to teach people that whatever is taught at the MFA level is akin to elementary school. In elementary school students will learn replica, mise-en-scène, and representation. In middle school, they will learn about reflexivity, reproducibility, reaction, and reflection. In high school, students will learn to see the invisible, to understand the philosophies of the invisible, will learn physics and religion. As undergraduates, my future pupils will learn transgression, systems of power, how to be a system of power, and how to harness systems of power.
Theaster Gates's Video Interview in Doug Aitken's project The Source (you might have to skip intro, video is less than 10 min).
I have this great problem of space. When planners use words like blight and, uh, under-developed, it’s like actually what you’re talking about is available land. It’s just like no one’s really thought about it in those terms.
The Real-Estate Artist: High-concept renewal on the South Side (The New Yorker)
Gates, who has two degrees in urban planning and began his art career as a potter, is reshaping the South Side in his image. The Arts Incubator is one of a long list of projects aimed at reviving a part of the city—plagued by unemployment and gang violence, its streets pocked with abandoned buildings—that he says has been “left to rot” since the sixties. Nearby, on Dorchester Avenue, he has been buying dilapidated houses and turning them into small cultural centers and meeting spaces: “places where moments of beauty can happen,” he says.
posted by plant or animal (3 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Link in Twitter for the New Yorker piece.
posted by plant or animal at 12:35 PM on June 10, 2020

One of my absolute favorite artists! I'm so inspired by the ecology in his work, where the waste or "runoff" of one project becomes the raw materials for another.

His solution to funding the Stony Island Arts Bank (salvaging marble from the restoration process which he turned into "bonds" to get art collectors to fund the restoration) is so elegant and funny. It rings similar bells for me as J.S.G. Boggs: artists finding ways to circumvent and subvert capitalism while still fully participating in it. Except that Gates has the whole history of capitalist disinvestment in (and exploitation of) black life that he's both exploring conceptually and actually addressing practically.
posted by AndNeverWell at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Theaster Gates is just amazing and brilliant and warms my heart. I was lucky to visit the Stony Island Arts Bank in 2017 with a friend who grew up in Hyde Park and remembered playing in it when it was an abandoned building. Everyone we met was incredibly open and friendly and eager to talk about what was happening there. If you are in Chicago I highly recommend stopping by for a visit. They had a lot of interesting events there - when things are able to open up I'm sure they will start up again.
posted by maggiemaggie at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2020

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