Pegboards and tar; Theaster Gates at the White Cube, Bermondsey

‘Freedom of Assembly’ was an exhibition at the White Cube, Bermondsey, by Theaster Gates in July 2015. It presented a large, diverse collection of his new work; a mixture of objects, paintings and video.

Freedom of Assembly is a useful title, referring not only to the right to speak, the right to convene and the right to be social but also of the making and grouping of objects. Both ideas are applicable and convincingly used in this exhibition.

I found his disassembled and re-assembled interiors interesting and playful as well as poignant. Whereas components of the closed down hardware store – fixtures and fittings, part of a roof – are reassembled into objects, Ground Rules – reassembled gym floors – he refers to as (thinking about, questioning) painting.

Theaster Gates, 'Freedom of Assembly' South Galleries 2

As you move through to the final room, he uses tar to paint with more explicitly, albeit using a roofer’s tools and techniques.

Also in this room are his his tar covered pots, which I loved. It’s amazing how tactile they were. I wanted to (but didn’t) touch them and the staff at the gallery said how unnerved they were by his constant handling of them. How could you resist? and they are his work, after all.

Theaster Gates talking about his work (Still from White Cube film)

There is a film (8mins) accompanying the exhibition where he talks clearly and un-arts-internationally about his ideas, his history of working with clay, painting, forms of labour and its connection to ‘art’ and his decision to assemble all parts of his life into his work, as opposed to keeping them distinct. It’s definitely worth watching; a super interesting artist.

More info
White Cube film of Theaster Gates from the exhibition, ‘Freedom of Assembly’
Theaster Gates’ website

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