Sculptural work by Theaster Gates is anchored in the artist’s long-standing commitment to social action and responsibility, rooted in his home city of Chicago. The wooden frame of Lathe Black Box from 2012 is made of wood from The Dorchester Project, one of his best-known pieces. The project transformed a dilapidated building in Chicago’s South Side into a community gathering place and a celebration of local culture. Gates has described this project as part of a “circular ecological system,” selling sculptural works from the material of these projects to finance the ongoing building renovations. In recent years, his creative efforts do not only consist of making fine art from construction materials, but also extend to creating construction materials asfine art. The 2017 piece, Convex Concave, consists of bricks that Gates makes from clay left over from an industrial manufacturer.
Stand-Ins for Period of Wreckage 25 (2011) comes from a series of concrete and ceramic oblong blocks that Gates has called “ghosts of structures that have gone.” Many works from this series reveal stacks of porcelain plates through gaps in the concrete – such as this plate, an artifact of daily living, encased in the surface of the column. Much of Gates’s work deals with history, memory, and renewal. The mirrored glass at the center of Lathe Black Box creates an ambiguous effect, confronting the viewer with their own reflection.