Theaster Gates: Light of Progress

March 26—June 27, 2021


Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates, A Tussle in the House of Love, 2018. Neon, 32 1/2h × 21w × 4 3/4d in.

These neons by multimedia artist Theaster Gates are a contemporary reimagining of W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1900 data visualizations. The works call upon the visual and political vocabulary of Du Bois’ graphs, presenting a stylized and aesthetically-oriented contemplation of the archival data collected by Du Bois. This data, which pertained to the social and economic conditions of African Americans at the turn of the 20th century, was first rendered artistically by Du Bois, whose distinctly modernist charting style broke down conventions of statistical representations. Gates’ neons further that effect, removing all words and numbers and opting instead for a more pared-down exploration of the historical data at hand. Through this synthesis and reconfiguration of the original graphs, Gates situates his work as a continuation of Du Bois’ project – giving poetic form to the archival.