Theaster Gates Interview

To celebrate Chicago’s own Theaster Gates in the Whitney Biennial, I’ll repost this from Art Talk Chicago this summer. We couldn’t say it on the audio, but it was a few days after he’s returned from meeting with the Whitney folks as a candidate. Congratulations, Theaster, you’ve got the chops. And thank you Dawoud for having the eye for talent you posess. (Dawoud’s other spotlight was Curtis Mann, also in the Biennial)

[powerpress url=”http://diamondlifecafe.com/theasteredit3.mp3″]

Theaster Gates is a Chicago artist who works with everything from ideas in urban planning to Japanese sculpture and performance. He came to my attention through Dawoud’s artist feature.

You should ¬†also listen to his artist talk at the Art Institute and video from MCA’s Temple Exercises

Selected Quotes from the audio:

Best restaurant idea ever:

“I’m gonna build a soul food kitchen that is fast, and good, and takes advantage of sticky rice and the sushi form. I want honey dipped, crunchy fried mac-and-cheese unagi rolls. I want saki Kool-aid. I want dressing and chicken yakatori.”


I feel like I’ve goten more traction … being an artist and deploying urban planning – versus urban planners who put up a pretty steel sculpture in the middle of a neighborhood and hope that people gather around it. Why not enter yourself in the creative imagination… my imagination can dream of a different kind of block.”
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the architecture of other cultures and the religious architecture of other places, to the extent that my religious experience and architectural knowledge is informed not only by lived experience but by shared experiences in other countries… to create a temple that references many cultures and the temple of my imagination, the templethat I’ve always wanted…”
one of the byproducts of the projects is that there will be this kind of spacial collision or social collision of how my life looks every day.”

I started thinking about this [shoe] shiners as a kind of monk, and shoe shining as a kind of monastic task.”
You got cats like Faheem Majeed, who’s the hot young director of the South Side Community Art Center, doing really interesting work where he’s looking at his art practice as it relates to him being this institutional director, and looking at this artwork that’s in the collection from these cats who were part of AfriCobra, or back at the Art Institute in the 20’s and 30’s, and he’s re-imagninging it for the public space.”