“For his first solo show in France, Theaster Gates has initiated a new project, pursuing the exploration of social histories of migration and inter-racial relations. He thus deals more exactly with questions of black subjugation and the resulting imperial sexual domination and racial mixing, while concentrating on an episode in American history. These themes allow Gates to explore new cinematographic, sculptural and musical futures while examining the history of land ownership and race relations in North Eastern, United States. The starting point of this exhibition, entitled “Amalgam”, is the story of Malaga Island, a small isle in the state of Maine, in the USA: In 1912, the governor of the state of Maine had all of its inhabitants expelled. This poor population, made up of an interracial, mixed community of about 45 people, considered to be “indolent” by many of the local inhabitants, was forced to spread out through the region, some of them even being condemned to psychiatric institutions.
The term “Amalgam”, which currently seems outdated in English-speaking culture, was used to describe a racial, ethnic and religious mingling. It has acquired for Theaster Gates a “loaded” significance, calling for a new series of works made up of videos, sculptures and architectural gestures, thus clearly committing his practice towards new formal and conceptual explorations.
Theaster Gates (born in 1973, lives in Chicago) works as an artist and land theorist. His practice includes sculpture, installation, performance and urban interventions that demonstrate the tremendous usevalue in economically destabilized communities. His projects attempt to instigate the creation of cultural capital by acting as catalysts for social engagement that leads to political and spatial change. Theaster Gates has described his working method as “critique through collaboration” – often with architects, researchers and performers – to create works that stretch the idea of what we usually understand visual-based practices to be.
Theaster Gates has had numerous solo exhibitions in the United States and internationally, among which Museu de Serralves (Porto) in 2014 and MCA Chicago in 2013. The recent project “The Black Madonna”, has been developed on the basis of various formats going from performance, photography and music, exploring the history of the black woman and its image. It takes roots in the significant archives of Johnson Publishing Corporation, publisher of Jet and Ebony magazines, based in Chicago. “The Black Madonna”, was presented at Kunstmuseum Basel (9 June - 21 October, 2018) and Sprengel Museum, Hanover (23 June - 09 September, 2018). Theaster Gates participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, New York in 2010 as well as in Documenta 13, Kassel in 2012, and more recently in the 56th Venice Biennial and in the 14th Istanbul Biennial in 2015. He is regularly holding live events with his musical ensemble, the Black Monks of Mississippi. “