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In the Tower: Theaster Gates: The Minor Arts

March 5 – September 4, 2017
East Building, Pod 3 Tower

Theaster Gates, A Game of My Own, 2017, wood, paint, black stain, Alabama ball clay, Courtesy of the artist, White Cube, and Regen Projects.

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: Theaster Gates (b. 1973) weaves together personal and cultural narratives, creating objects that speak to a particular time and place, and to the arc of American history. Popularly known for large-scale projects that transform vacant buildings into work of art, Gates has said that he is motivated by a desire to “reenvision place. . . not just as an art project, but as a way of living.”

The Minor Arts imagines a world in which up is down, the past is present, and the marginalized becomes central. Salvaging discarded materials found in and around his native Chicago, Gates responds to the decline of urban institutions and traditions, and resurrects them as art. At the same time, he draws from African sculpture and unheralded forms of craft and labor, including the homegrown traditions of roofing and ceramics. In one work, Gates brings the slate roof of a local decommissioned church down to eye level, making it into a wall, part fortress and part mosaic. In another, he scrambles the wood from the gym floors of shuttered high schools, giving it the staccato rhythm of geometric abstraction and transporting it from the arena of sport to art. Repurposing old copies of Ebony magazine, a seminal publication of African American life and culture, the artist constructs a towering library. And he creates a landscape painting out of roofer’s tar, mopping the viscous black material onto yellow Naugahyde to form a vibrant sunset. The Minor Arts reorients the world around us, placing invisible labor, forgotten stories, and overlooked craft at its center. Shuffling existing hierarchies, Gates gives new form to the outdated and the left-behind, and stakes a claim for the artfulness of the everyday.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Sponsors: The exhibition is made possible by The Tower Project of the National Gallery of Art.

Attendance: 67,424

Brochure: In The Tower: Theaster Gates: The Minor Arts. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2017. 

Conversations with Artists: Theaster Gates
Video, Released: April 18, 2017, (59:24 minutes)
Conversations with Artists: Theaster Gates
Audio, Released: February 28, 2017, (59:24 minutes)
Press Event: In the Tower: Theaster Gates
Audio, Released: February 22, 2017, (17:15 minutes)