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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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Theaster Gates

b. 1973, USA

Theaster Gates is an American conceptual artist who works at the intersection of urban planning, object-making and performance. He was born in Chicago, where he still lives and works.

Much of Gates' work is characterised by the use of discarded everyday materials deeply rooted in African American history and culture, such as tar, fire hoses and shoeshine stands. In his iconic 'Civil Tapestry' series, the artist sourced strips of decommissioned fire hoses from his neighbourhood in Chicago and composed them into abstract paintings. These works allude to the fire hoses used to subdue protestors who were marching as part of the ongoing struggles for African American civil rights during the 1963 Children's Crusade civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama.

Gates is committed to blurring the lines between art and community activism. He founded Rebuild Foundation—a non-profit organisation focused on culturally driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. The Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative (DA+HC) and the Stony Island Arts Bank are the most ambitious and celebrated among the projects initiated and run by the foundation. Having achieved enormous impact rehabilitating the long-downtrodden neighbourhoods on Chicago's South Side, these projects established Gates as one of the most fast-rising stars in the international art world.

For DA+HC, Gates restored dilapidated buildings and transformed them into alternative cultural institutions, houses and meeting spaces. In 2013, Gates convinced the city of Chicago to sell him the Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank Building, days before its scheduled demolition, in exchange for a commitment to reactivate the space with art and culture. Serving as 'a repository for African American culture', as Gates described in a press release, the building now houses a precious archive of books, vinyl records and artefacts representing the legacy of the local community. Both projects are part of what the artist described to Art in America as a 'circular ecological system', since they are financed by the sale of artworks created with the raw materials salvaged from the derelict architectures.

Gates' socially-engaged practice is fundamental to his oeuvre. In an interview with Ocula Magazine in 2017, Gates reflected, 'The silos between art and the social are contrived. ... The work I do is one work, one impulse, one imperative, one permission, different forms. It is always about affect, intention and aesthetics.' He has received numerous awards, including the Nasher Prize (2018), the Kurt Schwitters Prize (2017) and Artes Mundi 6 (2015).

Sophia Bingqin Cao | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

Bronze (Africa) by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork Theaster GatesBronze (Africa), 2016 Bronze with tar
198.1 x 144.8 x 13.3 cm
Bronze with Stripe by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork Theaster GatesBronze with Stripe, 2016 Bronze with tar
174 x 175.3 cm
Black Madonna by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork Theaster GatesBlack Madonna, 2018 Bronze with tar
148.6 x 66.7 x 54 cm

Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Theaster Gates, Selected Works at Gagosian, Paris
Closing Soon
12 February–23 March 2019 Theaster Gates Selected Works Gagosian, Paris

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Theaster Gates Ocula Conversation Theaster Gates Artist, USA

In 2009, Theaster Gates purchased a vacant building on the 6900 block of South Dorchester Avenue, and turned it into a library. As the project developed, it would become known as the Dorchester Projects, with Gates acquiring other buildings to create social spaces centred on culture, such as Black House Cinema, which hosts screenings and...

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In Related Press

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Your Guide to the Best Shows in Basel Related Press Your Guide to the Best Shows in Basel Frieze : 11 June 2018

Bruce Nauman, 'Disappearing Acts'Schaulager17 March – 26 AugustThe Schaulager enjoys immense resources; its founder, Maja Oeri, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a major donor to its collection, is honoured with a MoMA gallery in her name. Bruce Nauman's detailed survey exhibition, created in collaboration with that New York...

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Theaster Gates Wins 2018 Nasher Prize Related Press Theaster Gates Wins 2018 Nasher Prize Artforum : 22 September 2017

The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas announced today that American artist Theaster Gates has been awarded its 2018 Nasher Prize. In its third year, the prize recognizes living artists who elevate the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities. Gates will receive $100,000 and will be presented with an award designed by Renzo Piano, the...

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Critic’s Guide: Hong Kong Related Press Critic’s Guide: Hong Kong Frieze : 22 March 2017

Su-Mei Tse, Elegy, Edouard Malingue Gallery, 20 March–13 May.As the title implies, Su-Mei Tse's latest exhibition has strong literary underpinnings. An elegy, a Greek metrical form used to commemorate the departed, is usually styled to mirror the three stages of loss: grief, admiration and solace. From Gaëlle (2015-17), a photograph of a trace of...

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Using Discards to Build Art (and Rebuild a City) Related Press Using Discards to Build Art (and Rebuild a City) The New York Times : 14 March 2017

'It's a super-interesting moment to be at the National Gallery, where the question of what it means to be an American, and what kind of American are you, has a new kind of resonance,' said Theaster Gates, the sculptor, installation and performance artist and urban interventionist, whose exhibition The Minor Arts opened there this month in...

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In Related Video

Interview with Theaster Gates Related Video & Audio Interview with Theaster Gates ArtAsiaPacific : 26 April 2017

ArtAsiaPacific sat down with artist and urban planner Theaster Gates for an exclusive interview about his latest exhibition at White Cube, Hong Kong. Gates discussed his objective of using unconventional means to read artworks, and described how roofing techniques opened up new ways of making art.


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