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Charles Gaines
B. 1944, Charleston, South Carolina. Lives and works in Los Angeles.

From Naima J. Keith, Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Programs, California African American Museum:

I had the pleasure of curating Charles Gaines’s critically acclaimed 2014 exhibition “Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974–1989.” It was the first museum survey of his early work; his career now spans four decades. The show included rare and never-before-seen works, some of which were presumed lost. It opened at the Studio Museum in Harlem and later traveled to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
As a native Angeleno, I had long admired Gaines’s position as both a leading practitioner of Conceptualism and an influential educator at the California Institute of the Arts. Beginning in the 1970s, he was one of the few African American Conceptual artists to focus on abstraction and aesthetics in order to consider perception, objectivity, and relationships. Working serially in progressive and densely layered bodies of works, Gaines examines the interplay between objectivity and interpretation, the systematic and the poetic. His groundbreaking work serves as a critical bridge between the first-generation Conceptualists of the 1960s and ’70s and those artists of later generations considering the limits of subjectivity and language.
His work and our friendship have had a profound impact on me—both personally and professionally—and I am thrilled to see that his art continues to resonate with new and more diverse audiences internationally.
Theaster Gates
B. 1973, Chicago. Lives and works in Chicago.

From Josef Helfenstein, Director, Kunstmuseum Basel:

The creative practice of Theaster Gates includes urban interventions, performance, and pottery-making. His work aims to bridge the gulf between art and society; establish cultural communities; and initiate social, political, and urban change.
For Gates’s 2018 show at Kunstmuseum Basel, the artist engaged with our encyclopedic museum and its extensive collection—we cover seven centuries of Western (predominantly European and North American) art history. Gates recontextualized artworks and artists that range from Joseph Beuys to Old Master paintings of Madonnas. Expanding the notion of a “museum” or a “public collection,” he challenged our museological practices and principles by transforming several museum spaces into places of production (rather than sites for contemplation or social gathering).
Gates set up a temporary sound studio and a printing workshop. Inside and outside the institution, he created rehearsal and performance spaces for musicians. His own band, The Black Monks of Mississippi, used them, as did local musicians from the nearby jazz school, and gospel choir singers from the local cathedral. The cathedral, a thousand-year-old building, became a part of the project when Gates gave a musical sermon on a Sunday evening.
Gates wanted to connect art and society and use the museum as a platform for social intervention. Meanwhile, he hung posters throughout the city of Basel, based on an extensive archive of fashion photographs featuring black women—that’s how the show got its title, “Black Madonna.” For the Kunstmuseum, this exhibition was an important project that led us to question and reactivate our own core values, working methods, and history.

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