The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts presents Theaster Gates: Wonder Working Power, a site-specific installation by the Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist and professor.
Visitors will behold Theaster Gates’s passion for—and mastery of—the medium of clay. For Gates, the medium speaks not only to the ancient, elemental traditions of so many cultures but also to the precarious fragility of our contemporary selves. Using land development, sculpture, performance, and spatial theory to provoke dialogue and revitalize spaces of urban decay, Gates activates an astonishing array of materials to, in his words, “redeem spaces that have been left behind.”
Timed to coincide with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts’s conference in Richmond, March 20-23, 2024, the exhibition extends Gates’s themes on spirituality and how objects are imbued with divine power by the maker. A conceptual portrait, Wonder Working Power draws upon Gates’s upbringing as well as his embrace of the genre of ceramics and the use of clay as a transformative material that embodies myriad elements.
Multiple works are arranged on and around a steel plinth. Their presence exudes power as they occupy the spaces upon and around the altar-like structure. Gates invites viewers to come forward to experience the power of his handiwork and embrace the traditions of the divine.
Curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Wonder Working Power is a focused look at an artist who uses the potter’s wheel to drive crucial conversations and effect cultural change.
Photo: Lyndon French. ©️ Lyndon French