Sculptor, urban planner, and performance artist Theaster Gates transformed the Whitney’s Sculpture Court into an installation that functions as a communal gathering space for performances, social engagement, and contemplation. The spare architecture of the main pavilion reflects the artist’s interest in Eastern philosophy and art. The other throne-like structures suggest shoe shine chairs. These architectural elements infuse mundane labor with dignity and elevate the status of simple and found materials. The wood that makes up the main pavilion and surrounding pathways was salvaged from the former Wrigley gum factory in inner-city Chicago and cleaned by Gates before it was repurposed for this work.
Throughout the Biennial, Gates will collaborate with historians, artists, and street musicians on a series of “monastic residencies.” These creative residents will transform and reinvent the Sculpture Court by adding what Gates describes as “commentary, bling, and acts of sincerity.” to the installation.
In this video, 2010 artist Theaster Gates is joined by The Black Monks of Mississippi, an order of musicians and singers who temporarily submit themselves to ideals of musical restraint and semi-strict adherence to the blues form, which the artist believes to be the most important root in the American musical tradition.