The National Gallery of Art has recently installed a newly acquired work by cross-disciplinary American artist Theaster Gates (b. 1973)—the first by him to enter the Gallery's collection. Gates selects the raw materials often lost amidst rapid urban change and reimagines them, as with Ground Rules (black line) (2015), a composition of salvaged gymnasium floor boards from a decommissioned Chicago high school. At 20 feet wide—the largest in his Ground Rules series of gym floors—Ground Rules (black line) fully engages with architecture while staking a claim for its place in the history of art. The titular black line breaks across the horizontal plane and is recomposed by the artist to incorporate jump cuts. Gates has explained that these broken lines serve as a metaphor for "the importance of rules learned through play, and the social consequences of their breakdown and loss." An evocation of abstract color field painting, Gates's Ground Rules series engages the linear structure of the boards and remixes the taped lines originally meant to structure play.
In 2017 Gates presented a new body of work, The Minor Arts, which examined how discarded and ordinary objects acquire value through the stories we tell about them. On view in the East Building's Tower 3 gallery from March 5 through September 4, 2017, In the Tower: Theaster Gates: The Minor Arts marked the artist's first solo exhibition in Washington and on the East Coast.
The recipient of many notable awards, Gates received the 2018 Nasher Prize, the world's leading award for contemporary sculpture. He is the 2018/2019 artist-in-residence at the Getty Research Institute, where he will join visiting scholars to conduct research for a project related to the theme "monumentality."