I have been so pleased with the choice for the the third Nasher Prize, awarded by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. I had first learned of his work in a documentary piece on PBS a few years ago, and was captured by the combination of sculpture, pottery, performance art and urban development in his practice.
I attended the Nasher Prize Dialogues Graduate Symposium on April 5, and a Town Hall session with Gates and Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, “the world’s leading institution devoted to visual art by artists of African descent,” on April 6.
At the Symposium, we heard papers from graduate students in art history addressing Gates’ work from various perspectives. While there was some language almost impenetrable to my group–the public–in the main, it was intellectually stimulating. My favorite address was from Allison Vanouse who hails from The Editorial Institute at Boston University. Her paper was titled “Theaster Gates and the Archived Imperative.” Books, libraries and art. What’s not to love about that?
We were given a curated list of Gates’ accomplishments–venues, memorials, and artworks–“Theaster Gates A – Z,” showcasing his scope. Archive House, Black Cinema House, Civil Tapestry 4 (fire hoses on oil cloth on wood panel), Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, Ex Slaves, Slaves, Freedom of assembly, Ground Rules (Free throw possibility), Heavy Sketches, In Event of a Race Riot XXVI (wood, glass, hoses), Jason + Looks of a Lot, Kenwood Gardens, Listening House, My Labor is my Protest, Nasher Prize Laureate, Objects of Care: Material Memorial for Tamir Rice, Place Lab, Quiet Riot with Tar, Rebuild Foundation, Stony Island Arts Bank, Tar Baby II, University of Chicago, Director of Arts and Public Life, Venice Biennale, When the Land Rusts, (X) A Fantasy, Yamaguchi Story: Plate Convergence, Zona Maco. Whew!
At the Town Hall, Gates spoke movingly about his aim (and the aim of Thelma Golden) to make the invisible visible. It is the artist, he said, who can say “F*** all of y’all.” His intention for the $100,000 of prize money is something that really spins my propeller. He will develop a new writing venture centered on the purchase of a Heidelberg windmill printing press to establish his own imprint. He intends to develop and publish “language-based work” written by himself and other poets. Making the invisible visible.
I hope you’ll check him out.