Theaster Gates: A Way of Working

Theaster Gates: A Way of Working

Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects (2008–ongoing),
Chicago. Photo: James W. Toftness.

September 10, 2013
Theaster Gates: A Way of Working

Forum, lecture, and exhibition

Celebrating the inaugural recipient of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics

Wednesday, September 18th, 10am–2:30pm
Thursday, September 19th, 10am–12pm

The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd Floor, New York


Artist lecture and Prize presentation
Wednesday, September 18th, 7pm

The New School, Tishman Auditorium
66 West 12th Street, New York


Gallery Presentation
September 18th–October 5th, 2013

Opening: September 18th, 5–6:30pm

The Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design
66 Fifth Avenue, New York
Hours: Daily noon–6pm, Thursdays noon–8pm

Admission to all events is free. For more details, visit theVera List Center website.


In tribute to Theaster Gates, recipient of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics presents a conference, artist lecture and a gallery installation collectively entitled Theaster Gates: A Way of Working.

These programs are the culmination of The New School’s 18-month engagement with the artist and his work, and takes place alongside numerous courses across the university. Theaster Gates: A Way of Working offers a view into how the artist develops synergies within his far-reaching work, and examines the complex ways of creating and maintaining an expanded studio practice rooted in institutional engagement, object making, and the production of space. Gates is globally renowned for his genre-defying explorations of community, history, race, and politics.

The two-day public forum (September 18–19) explores Gates’ prize-winning Dorchester Projects and issues arising from the work such as migration, belief and ecologies of organizing. Voices from fields such as art, urban policy, economics, jazz, political science, and religious studies from The New School and beyond illuminate the multifaceted and ongoing project, and ultimately call for new notions of social justice brought about by aesthetic practices. Speakers include Jane Bennett (Johns Hopkins) and Shannon Jackson (UC Berkeley) as well as The New School faculty members Katayoun ChamanyAndrea Geyer, Richard Harper, Lydia MatthewsJasmine Rault, Radhika Subramaniam, and others.

Dedicated to the artist’s prize-winning work Dorchester Projects, the conference is anchored by a lecture by Theaster Gates and the presentation of the award, designed by Yoko Ono, on September 18 at 7pm. It is preceded by the opening celebration of the gallery installation at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design from 5–6:30pm.

The gallery presentation of Theaster Gates: A Way of Working, organized to accompany the forum and spark ongoing conversation, includes excerpts of works and project series from Gates’ studio. Rather than explore the chronological development of Gates’ work, the presentation focuses on the uniquely non-linear nature of his methods of working, thinking, and creating. Project elements include a rickshaw inspired by recent visits to Haiti and Mexico; drawings and studies; videos; and a large-scale organizational chart mapping elements of the artist’s way of working.

Launched to celebrate the VLC’s 20th anniversary, the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics honors an artist or group of artists who engage political themes and take personal risks to advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. International in scope, the biennial prize is awarded for a particular project’s long-term impact, boldness, and artistic excellence. Following an extensive research and evaluation process that enlisted the advice of a jury and a nominator’s council of leading artists, art historians, and curators worldwide, Theaster Gates was named inaugural recipient of the prize for his Dorchester Projects. More than a single moment of recognition, the prize represents a long-term commitment to the question of how the arts advance social justice, how we speak of, evaluate, and teach such work.

Theaster Gates: A Way of Working is part of the program initiatives of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. It is curated by Carin Kuoni, Director/Curator, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and Chelsea Haines, Curatorial Associate. The gallery installation is presented in collaboration with Theaster Gates, with support from Kate Hadley Williams, Studio and Exhibitions Manager for Theaster Gates, La Keisha Leek, Artist Liaison for Rebuild Foundation, and the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design. Additional support is provided by Parsons’ Curatorial Design Research Lab, and by White Cube, London. Special thanks to Yoko Ono. Founding Supporters of the Prize are James-Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Elizabeth Hilpman and Byron Tucker, Jane Lombard, Joshua Mack, and The New School for Public Engagement.

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September 10, 2013

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