Theaster Gates at LA’s Regen Projects

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‘To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.’

– W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Chicago-based installation artist, visual arts professor, and urban planner Theaster Gates will soon be the focus of a much-anticipated solo exhibition at Los Angeles’ Regen Projects. Opening on January 14, But To Be A Poor Race will be Gates’ debut at the gallery as well as his first U.S. gallery representation in four years. Guests can expect to see several new works made from tar, fire hoses, rocks, and clay, several of which will be crafted on site.


Theaster Gates. Installation view of Sanctum, 2015. Temple Church, Bristol. Photo courtesy of Max McClure.

Civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois’ groundbreaking work The Souls of Black Folk, an essay collection which delves into the wisdom and heart of African Americans, serves as inspiration for the show’s title and the famed sociologist’s influence does not stop there. But To Be A Poor Race will also feature abstract color field “response paintings,” prompted by Du Bois’ gathered data.

Audiences will also be treated to a new video project entitled Sweet Land of Liberty, in which Gates references “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” with the help of avant-garde music group The Black Monks of Mississippi. Borrowing from rock ‘n’ roll and spirituals, the piece will explore themes of race relations in the United States.


Theaster Gates. Installation view of Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr, 2015. All the World’s Futures, The 56th Venice Biennale. Photo courtesy of Francesco Allegretto.

Much of Gates’ work is centered upon on racism and poverty in America and aims to raise awareness about underprivileged communities across the country–a nod to a childhood on the South Side of Chicago. With a handful of celebrated group and solo shows under his belt (the Whitney Biennial, the 56th Venice Biennale, Fondazione Prada, and MCA Chicago, to name a few), Gates has made his mark on the world stage and is channeling his creative passion to promote a noble cause.

As the founder of the Rebuild Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting cultural-driven redevelopment, Gates hopes to revitalize cities through art.  One of the Rebuild Foundation’s most renowned feats is the Dorchester Projects. Here, Gates restored two abandoned Chicago buildings and transformed them into bustling culture centers.

Always thought-provoking and innovative, Theaster Gates’ work is a true gem. Surely, But To Be A Poor Race will be no exception.

Theaster Gates: But To Be A Poor Race
January 14, 2017 ─ February 25, 2017
Regen Projects 6750 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Emily Nimptsch

Emily Nimptsch

Emily Nimptsch is a freelance arts and culture writer living in Los Angeles. She has written for Flaunt, ArtSlant, Artillery, and produced blog content for Venice Beach’s L.A. Louver Gallery.