Chicago artist Theaster Gates at the Milwaukee Museum of Art crossed boundaries of both art and society. Gates, looking for forbearers in the field of ceramics, found his way to Dave Drake, a slave in antebellum South Carolina. “Dave the Potter” made stoneware pottery, mostly functional objects, and inscribed poetic couplets on them.
Gates, a potter, musician, and performance artist, had found his match: an African American potter with a multimedia sensibility. For his homage to Dave, To Speculate Darkly, he collaborated with workers at the nearby Kohler manufacturing plant to create new ceramic work that again relates functional and art objects. He set Dave’s couplets to music and assembled a local gospel choir to record them for the installation and perform at the opening. The result: a collaboration between white workers and African American artists that explores race and craft, past and present, function and art.
To Speculate Darkly Performance
Opening Night Lecture, Milwaukee Art Museum
The 2010 Joyce Award is one of many accolades for Gates. 2012 began with a commission to create the visual identity for the 2012 Armory Show and Gates’ The Dorchester Project and his related work on neighborhood redevelopment covered by major media outlets, included an invitation to participate in dOCUMENTA(13), a German contemporary art fair held every five years and was capped off by being named a 2012 USA Fellow by USA Artists.