Theaster Gates: A Way of Working

Exhibition Wed 18 Sep 2013 - Sat 5 Oct 2013 Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School for Design
66 Fifth Avenue
New York City
Free admission
Opening Celebration
September 18, 5:00–6:30 p.m.

September 18–October 5, 2013
Open daily 12:00–6:00 p.m., and Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m.

The New School's Vera List Center for Art and Politics and the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design present Theaster Gates: A Way of Working. Curated in collaboration with Theaster Gates, recipient of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, the exhibition — along with a two-day public forum on September 18–19 — is the culmination of The New School's 18-month engagement with the artist and his work. Theaster Gates: A Way of Working offers a view into how the artist develops synergies within his far-reaching work, and examines the complex ways of creating and maintaining an expanded studio practice rooted in institutional engagement, object making, and the production of space. Gates is globally renowned for his genre-defying explorations of community, history, race, and politics.

The two-day public forum (September 18–19) explores Gates' prize-winning Dorchester Projects. It is anchored by a keynote artist lecture, and the presentation of the prize, designed by Yoko Ono, to Theaster Gates. Over two days, voices from diverse fields such as art, urban policy, economics, and religious studies from The New School and beyond illuminate the multifaceted and ongoing project. Confirmed speakers include Jane Bennett, Katayoun Chamany, Shannon Jackson, Jasmine Rault, SJDC Director and Chief Curator Radhika Subramaniam, and others.

"Theaster Gates' project of historical reclamation, interrogation of archival legacies, and social construction of memory and cultural agency has it all tied together," said curator and historian Okwui Enwezor, who chaired the prize jury that selected Dorchester Projects. "Dorchester Projects layers a meditation on the present African American experience by connecting it to the haunted remains of the past, making links with narratives of race consciousnesses, the Civil Rights Movements, but ultimately probing how the African American experience is enlivened by ongoing processes of testimony. Entering that installation is like entering a haunted space."

The exhibiton Theaster Gates: A Way of Working includes excerpts of works or project series from Gates' studio, including sculpture, drawing, and video. Rather than explore the chronological development of Gates' work, the presentation focuses on the uniquely non-linear nature of his methods of working, thinking, and creating. Project elements include a large-scale rickshaw inspired by a recent trip to Mexico; ink, pen and marker drawings; videos; and a large-scale organizational chart mapping various elements of the artist's way of working.
      • K Dorchester Projects Resource Guide Download - pdf (287 kB)
      • K Didactics for Theaster Gates: A Way of Working Download - pdf (99 kB)
A bold American artist with a global vision, Gates expands the discourse of political enfranchisement and social inclusion. He began Dorchester Projects in 2006, transforming two formerly abandoned buildings on Chicago's South Side into alternative cultural spaces that house an art and architecture library, slide archive, and record collection. In 2012, Gates opened the Black Cinema House, where programming highlights the work of films by and about people of color. The ongoing and ever-expanding project provides new models for culture-driven reinvestment in underserved communities.­

Launched to celebrate the VLC's 20th anniversary, the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics honors an exemplary artist or group of artists who has taken risks to advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. International in scope, the biennial prize is awarded for a particular project's long-term impact, boldness, and artistic excellence. Following an extensive research and evaluation process that enlisted the advice of a jury and a nominator's council of leading artists, art historians and curators worldwide, Theaster Gates was named inaugural recipient of the prize for his Dorchester Projects. More than a single moment of recognition, the prize represents a long-term commitment to the question of how the arts advance social justice, and how we speak of, evaluate, and teach such work.

Theaster Gates: A Way of Working is part of the program initiatives of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. It is curated by Carin Kuoni, Director/Curator, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and Chelsea Haines, Curatorial Associate, in collaboration with Theaster Gates, with support from Kate Hadley Williams, Studio and Exhibitions Manager for Theaster Gates, La Keisha Leek, Artist Liaison for Rebuild Foundation, and the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design. Additional support is provided by Parsons' Curatorial Design Research Lab, and by White Cube, London. Special thanks to Yoko Ono. Founding Supporters of the Prize are James-Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Elizabeth Hilpman and Byron Tucker, Jane Lombard, Joshua Mack, and The New School for Public Engagement.

For more information on Theaster Gates and Dorchester Projects, see the Resource Guide and Didactics above, available as downloadable PDFs. See below for the Press Release and blog coverage.
The New School Press Release
Words in Space