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Opening November 10, 2022, the New Museum will present the first American museum survey exhibition devoted to Theaster Gates, encompassing the full range of the artist’s practice across a variety of media creating communal spaces for preservation, remembrance, and exchange.

Theaster Gates, A Heavenly Chord, 2022. Leslie speakers, Hammond B3 Organ, and sound, dimensions variable. © Theaster Gates. Courtesy Theaster Gates. Photo: Jim Prinz Photography

This landmark exhibition will be accompanied by a presentation of newly commissioned works by Vivian Caccuri and Miles Greenberg exploring the relationship between bodies and sound waves.

Taking place across three floors of the museum, this exhibition will encapsulate the full range of Theaster Gates’s artistic activities, featuring artworks produced over the past twenty years and site-specific environments created especially for this presentation. Gates has titled the exhibition ‘Young Lords and Their Traces’ in honour of the radical thinkers who have shaped his home city of Chicago and America as a whole. For Gates, collective forms of knowledge are built across objects, images, sounds, movements, and most importantly, through the relationships between people. This survey exhibition will comprise a choreography of works including paintings, sculptures, videos, performances, and archival collections that work together to memorialise both heroic figures and more humble, everyday icons. Gates’s elevation of these quieter sources of knowledge, and his assertion that collecting and archiving are forms not only of preservation but also of devotion and remembrance, have made his work reverberate both locally and internationally.

Gates emerged in the early 2000s with a sculptural practice characterised by its use of salvaged materials and deeply researched interdisciplinary histories – a mode of working that he maintains today. The elegiac formalism of Gates’s large-scale tar paintings, experimental clay vessels, and immersive architectural installations can be linked to both personal and collective narratives of labour and spirituality. Alongside his early sculptural production, Gates has undertaken an ambitious project to revitalise his neighbourhood on the South Side of Chicago by transforming unused buildings into experimental spaces for the exploration of Black culture. In recent years, Gates has linked these activities by rescuing a variety of historical collections of images and objects in Chicago and creating architectural spaces and sculptural structures for their preservation and dissemination to wider audiences.

Through “Young Lords and Their Traces,” Gates will reimagine the function of a museum as a space for personal histories and spiritual convocations. As part of the expansive exhibition, one entire floor of the New Museum will be transformed into a kind of personal museum, gathering artworks, artifacts, and mementos connected to influential figures in Gates’s life and career who have passed away in recent years: curator Okwui Enwezor, writer bell hooks, and Gates’s own father, among others. While tinged with a sense of loss, Gates’s recent work creates a network of intellectual and aesthetic affinities across generations. The result is less a map of personal obsessions than an assembly of voices in which the viewer is invited to participate. Combining an intimate, poetic sensibility and a sense of civic commitment, Gates’s work reimagines art as a form of social sculpture that can open up new modes of collectivity and knowledge production even in the most surprising contemporary settings.

‘Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces’ is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director, and Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Senior Curator. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published by the New Museum and Phaidon featuring new essays by Jessica Bell Brown, Gary Carrion-Murayari, Ryan Dohoney, Coco Fusco, and Dieter Roelstraete, and an interview between Theaster Gates and Massimiliano Gioni.

Courtesy Vivian Caccuri and Miles Greenberg

Artists Vivian Caccuri and Miles Greenberg, based respectively in Rio de Janeiro and New York, will collaborate for the first time on an exhibition designed for the New Museum’s Lobby Gallery. ‘The Shadow of Spring’ investigates the phenomenon of vibration and its ability to trigger collective transformative experiences. Featuring newly commissioned sculptures, installations, embroidery pieces, and sound works developed separately and in collaboration, this exhibition will form an encompassing environment created to provoke alternative ways to experience the sonic dimension.

Greenberg, known for his emotive durational performances, will present two newly commissioned sculptures. Each piece was developed from 3D scans of his own body taken during Fountain I, a seven hour-long performance from 2022. The abstracted three-dimensional sculptures generated by this process function as fountains pouring water from multiple points, adding to the soundscape of the space. The three sculptures are staggered across the gallery, seemingly floating on the surface of mysterious pools of unknown depth, bordered by volcanic stones.

Installed on opposite sides of the space, Caccuri’s large-scale installations combine sound system and embroidery works, continuing the artist’s investigations of sound and sensory perception through objects, installations, and performances. Her two embroidered works echo the shapes of Greenberg’s sculptures, depicting abstracted scenes in which groups of dancers challenge the conventional limits between individual bodies. The carefully hand-made embroidery works adorn plastic fabric typically used as mosquito netting and stretched within a frame of hi-fi speakers, expanding a body of research previously presented at the Venice Biennial in 2019.

The two sets of thematically related works are further connected by a new sound piece jointly created by Caccuri and Greenberg, enveloping the audience and the entire installation in an experience of spatial reorientation. Inspired by how different rhythms and frequencies can affect group dynamics (as in temples, dance floors, and urban spaces), through “The Shadow of Spring” Caccuri and Greenberg together investigate the multifaceted relationships between bodies and sound waves.

Both exhibitions will be on view from the 10th of November, 2022, until the 5th of February, 2023. For more information, please visit New Museum.

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