This exhibition brings a number of Gates’s collections into a museum context for the first time. The Walker’s galleries will be transformed into a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, which transposes the artist’s vast collections and studio environment into four immersive rooms, each infused with his poetic interventions. Included are selections from 60,000 slides of art/architectural history from the University of Chicago Glass Lantern Slides Collection; 15,000 books and periodicals, furniture, and other ephemera from the Johnson Publishing Company Archives & Collections; 4,000 objects from the Edward J. Williams Collection of “Negrobilia”; and ceramic pots and other wares that the artist has made or collected over the past decade. Taken together, the objects on view speak to what Gates calls “the truth of the everyday” and demonstrate his “deep belief in the objects and histories of African American material culture.”
In 2017 Gates unveiled his first permanent outdoor commission Black Vessel for a Saint (2017) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Composed of custommade black bricks, the temple-like structure provides a home for a salvaged statue of Saint Laurence, the patron saint of librarians and archivists.
Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall is on view September 5, 2019–January 12, 2020 in the Target Gallery.