Theaster Gates: Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories

Theaster Gates: Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories

Colby College Museum of Art

Photo from archives of Johnson Publishing Company. Courtesy of Theaster Gates.

February 21, 2019
Theaster Gates
Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories
March 12–September 8, 2019
Colby College Museum of Art
5600 Mayflower Hill Dr
04901 Waterville Maine
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10am–5pm,
Thursday 10am–9pm

Theaster Gates’s Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories will make its US debut at the Colby College Museum of Art.

Colby’s Lunder Institute for American Art will invite scholars and artists to respond to Gates’s project.

Making its US debut March 12 through September 8, 2019, at the Colby Museum of Art, Theaster Gates’s Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories features nearly 3,000 images from the Johnson Publishing Company archive contained within a room-size storage and display cabinet designed by Gates. Founded in 1942, Chicago-based Johnson Publishing chronicled the lives of Black Americans for more than seven decades through the magazines Ebony and Jet, which Gates has described as “an early platform for self-healing” for Black Americans. Gates’s project, composed from this important archive of Black visual culture, recontextualizes and reanimates these images and their histories, as Facsimile Cabinet is both a repository and an interactive archive. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to take out the photographs stored in the cabinet’s many shelves and engage directly with these rich and varied representations of Black women. Presented in collaboration with the Lunder Institute for American Art, Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories will also inspire new research and creative production by Lunder Institute visiting scholars and artists. The Lunder Institute will host archivists, legal scholars, anthropologists, and librarians, as well as visual artists, filmmakers, writers, and art historians, to spend time with Gates’s archive and reflect on its significance through the lens of their particular area of expertise. The Lunder Institute will document these encounters through a series of digital and print publications.

The presentation of this new body of work is drawn from Gates’s Black Madonna exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel in 2018, part of his larger Black Image Corporation project addressing “the projection of images into the world” and the power dynamics inherent to archives.

Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories at the Colby Museum of Art comes on the heels of Gates’s Amalgam exhibition opening February 20 at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France. Concerned with how hybridity and mixed-race historical narratives inform sculpture, Amalgam draws on Gates’s time in Maine, especially his exploration of the history of Malaga Island, where a community of mixed-race and inter-racial residents was forcibly evicted by the state in 1912. This tragic story has been interpreted in recent years by other Maine-based artists and scholars including artist and Maine College of Art professor Daniel Minter, and Bates College professor and scholar Myron Beasley, both of whom discussed their parallel work with Gates at a Lunder Institute event at Colby College in November 2018. “We are thrilled to be working alongside the prodigiously talented Theaster Gates,” said Lunder Institute director Lee Glazer. “His commitment to re-presenting images and narratives of the Black experience could not be more relevant at this moment in American life.”

Theaster Gates (b. 1973, Chicago) is Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art. Gates has exhibited widely, including in group shows such as the Whitney Biennial, New York (2010); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012); The Spirit of Utopia at Whitechapel, London (2013); and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s When Stars Collide (2014). Solo exhibitions include To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave, the Slave Potter at Milwaukee Art Museum (2010), Seattle Art Museum (2011), and MCA Chicago (2013); The Black Monastic residency at Museu Serralves, Porto (2014); Black Madonna at Kunstmuseum Basel (2018); The Black Image Corporation at Fondazione Prada, Milan (2018); and Amalgam at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2019). In 2013, Gates was awarded the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. He has since won the Artes Mundi 6 prize (2015) and the Nasher Prize (2018). Gates is also the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation.

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Colby College Museum of Art
February 21, 2019

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