23 April–26 June 2016
Theaster Gates presents a major solo show in Austria at Kunsthaus Bregenz, including new sculptures, film and tar works.
In Bregenz, Gates will show ‘Negrobilia’ for the first time, a collection of historical figures depicting Afro-Americans in a ‘stereotypical’ manner. The collection of objects was first assembled by Edward J. Williams thirty years ago in order to withdraw the objects from public view. Now, for the first time these objects will be displayed in a new context, both in the exhibition and in the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue.
Two large sculptures, based on two objects from the ‘Negrobilia’ collection will be a focal point of the exhibition. The Dancing Minstrel (2016), enlarged to more than four metres high is an interactive sculpture which hangs from the ceiling, where visitors themselves must dance to activate it.
Tar Baby (2016) is an enlarged version of a tiny black baby doll pin cushion, made to be hugely oversized, her eyes deep-set and gaze forlorn, addressing ‘what it means to be black’.
Scenes from The Littlest Rebel (1935) starring Shirley Temple will also be screened. Gates has reedited the film for the exhibition to focus on a scene in which black actor Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson dances on stairs, the child actor imitating his virtuoso footsteps, while in another scene the pair tap dance on the street to earn money.
A statue of St. Lawrence will also displayed in the Kunsthaus, an object rescued from an abandoned church next to Gates’ Chicago studio, recently seen in the 2015 Venice Biennale.
Also exhibited will be several tar works, which set themselves off against the grey walls of the Kunsthaus Bregenz. These gloomy icons, reminiscent of poorly constructed dwellings, poverty, and damaged lives.
‘Theaster Gates: Black Archive’
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Theaster Gates ‘Roofing Sample: Weitzman Roofing’ (2014)
© Theaster Gates. Photo © White Cube (Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)