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b. 1944, USA

Charles Gaines Biography

Employing self-devised systems, Charles Gaines has developed a distinct methodology that combines photography, grids, seriality, text, and even music to examine the relationships between image structure, cognition, and aesthetics.

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Charles Gaines initially trained as a painter, receiving his BA from Jersey City State College in 1966 and MFA from the School of Art and Design, Rochester Institute of Technology, in 1967. His shift to coded works was inspired by Buddhist tantric art and its systematic approach to arranging detailed components. The ink drawing series 'Regression' (1973–1974) shows the artist exploring systems where, on hand-drawn grids, he plotted numbers that were generated by mathematical equations.

Photographs often provide the visual foundation for Charles Gaines, who translates them into pixelated forms on grids. The drawings in his 'Walnut Tree Orchard' series (1975–2014) show trees in a limited colour palette, while in 'Numbers and Trees' (ongoing since 1987) they appear in fluorescent acrylic colours painted on large sheets of Plexiglas. From a distance, Gaines' grid works present an intact recognisable image; upon closer inspection, however, individual numbers and pixels emerge and take over, underlining the differences between the viewer's subjective experience and the data captured by the artist.

Although Charles Gaines' furtively philosophical grid works attracted prominent conceptual artists such as Sol LeWitt, who introduced them to the dealers Leo Castelli and John Weber in New York, they have been slow to receive critical recognition. This was in part because Gaines was a black artist in a white-oriented art world, and because his oeuvre with its numerical coding systems did not adhere to the expectations on African American artists to address specifically black experiences. In 2014, at the age of 70, the artist had his first museum survey—Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974–1989—at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Charles Gaines' Hauser & Wirth St Moritz solo show entitled Drawings in 2020 was the first presentation in Europe to highlight Charles Gaines' drawing practice.

In the late 1980s, Gaines began to incorporate photography and text in his artwork to consider the politics of representation. His photography alluded to the manipulative power of images and image-makers. For example, his 'Night/Crimes' series (1994–1995) juxtaposed an image of the night sky with a mug shot and a criminal scene; though all components were unrelated, they nevertheless suggested a narrative when brought together.

In Charles Gaines' 'Manifestos' (2008–2018), the artist devised a notational system to 'translate' historical speeches and essays into musical scores. Ranging from Olympe de Gouges' 'Declaration on the Rights of Women' (1791) to Martin Luther King, Jr's 1967 talk at Newcastle University, the texts delineated a history of social injustice that continues to resonate today, while also being transmuted into potential aural pleasure.

An educator all his life, Charles Gaines taught at California State University, Fresno between 1968 and 1990, and has been teaching at the California Institute of the Arts since 1989. Among his former students are Andrea Bowers, Mark Bradford, Sam Durant, and Lauren Halsey. In 2019, Charles Gaines held a 'Library of Ideas', a ten-part public lecture series at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, on the occasion of his solo presentation Palm Trees and Other Works at the gallery.

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Charles Gaines Featured Artworks

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Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #10, John Carpenter Street by Charles Gaines contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, photography
Charles GainesNumbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #10, John Carpenter Street, 2021Acrylic sheet, acrylic paint, photograph, 3 parts
241.3 x 335.9 x 14.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #3, Cannon Street by Charles Gaines contemporary artwork painting, photography
Charles GainesNumbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #3, Cannon Street, 2020Acrylic sheet, acrylic paint, photograph
162.2 x 223.5 x 14.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #4, Devonshire Row by Charles Gaines contemporary artwork painting, photography
Charles GainesNumbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #4, Devonshire Row, 2020Acrylic sheet, acrylic paint, photograph
162.2 x 223.5 x 14.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Numbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #6, Fetter Lane by Charles Gaines contemporary artwork painting, photography
Charles GainesNumbers and Trees: London Series 1, Tree #6, Fetter Lane, 2020Acrylic sheet, acrylic paint, photograph
162.2 x 223.5 x 14.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery

Charles Gaines Recent Exhibitions

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Charles Gaines Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Gstaad, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Menorca, Monte Carlo, New York, Somerset, Southampton, St. Moritz, Zurich

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