Glass Lantern Slide Pavilion (Primary Title)
Theaster Gates, American, born 1973 (Artist)
Considered a “social practice” artist, Gates culls his artistic materials from crucial aspects of his larger enterprise, Rebuild Foundation, whose stated mission is to “transform under-resourced communities.” For nearly a decade, Gates has been renovating properties on South Dorchester Avenue on Chicago’s Southside, where he lives and works. Using reclaimed materials, he has built a complex of residences interspersed with community spaces. In turn, he repurposes materials from these renovations to make art objects, the sale of which fund further renovations forming a circular system Gates calls “an economy of opportunity.”
Here salvaged wood from buildings in Dorchester form walls where Gates has embedded the rolled form of a fire hose—a historical reference to the hoses used against protestors during the civil rights movement and to America’s racist housing policies of the past. Four found teacups allude to Gates’s fascination with ceramics as a central theme of transformation. A potter by training, Gates has described pottery as “the magic of taking the lowliest material on earth— mud—and turning it into something beautiful and useful.” Likewise the placement above of art-history slides suggests a literal reading of “high and low” culture, further highlighting his choice to utilize rough, humble materials as the foundation of his practice.
Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.