Theaster Gates

The artist who does more outside the gallery than within

Gates has long taken scraps from the South Side of Chicago – bits of roofing, flooring and synthetic leather from abandoned schools and shops – and transposed them into art, semidisguised as abstract canvases and sculptures, dispersing them around the world; transforming rubble, effectively, into artworld support for his activities back in Chicago. A recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and soon one at the Sprengel Museum in Hanover (following on from winning the Kurt Schwitters Prize), as well as winning the Nasher Prize, have bolstered his profile. As Gates’s endeavours in rebuilding neighbourhoods have grown and formalised, and as his work has spread increasingly internationally, more painterly, personal gestures have appeared in recent shows. But whether in Helsinki or Hong Kong, both places Gates has shown in the past year, his work continues to narrate 
a story of inner-city transformation and redemption.