Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents Theaster Gate. The Listening Room

Theaster Gates, recipient of the 2011–2012 Seattle Art Museum (SAM) Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship, explores the ways history, place and performance intersect in his new solo exhibition: Theaster Gates: The Listening Room. Opening at SAM Downtown on December 9, 2011, the show runs through July 1, 2012.

For The Listening Room, Gates combines objects and architectural elements that reflect cultural and social currents of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The show draws on a vast array of historical and aesthetic issues, ideas and disciplines, transforming the gallery into a participatory space where socially and politically charged objects incite conversation and public engagement.

A collection of approximately 4,000 vinyl records, reclaimed from the former Dr. Wax record store in Chicago, will function as the backbone of the installation. In addition, Gates created a DJ and archival station, a series of hand-crafted chairs, and a shoji-like screen that he fashioned out of signage reclaimed from Dr. Wax’s store. The walls will be adorned with works created out of decommissioned fire hoses, recalling methods used by police in civil rights era public protests. There will also be a “self-service” record player with a selection of records that visitors will be able to walk up to and play. (These records are not part of the Dr. Wax collection).

Throughout the exhibition, the public will have the opportunity to engage with the show both in the gallery and around Seattle. Each first Thursday and first Sunday of the month SAM will showcase a local DJ who will select records from the Dr. Wax collection to play. At the same time an archivist will be recording the moment for posterity, recognizing that this exact scenario of music selection and audience interaction is always unique. There will also be “listening parties” out in the community that promote dialogue and engagement with the themes in the show.

Theaster Gates: The Listening Room is curated by Sandra Jackson-Dumont, SAM’s Kayla Skinner Deputy Director of Education and Public Programs and Adjunct Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Artist Talk: Theaster Gates
Thursday, December 8, 2011, 7:30 pm
SAM Downtown, Arnold Board Room
Gates will discuss the exhibition and the principals behind his artistic practice for an opening night lecture. The lecture is free with museum admission. Registration required by December 8 on SAM’s online calendar.

About the Artist
Gates wears many different hats including cultural producer, activist, and performer. He has an extensive background in religious studies, visual art, urban planning and civic engagements all of which are reflected in his installations encompassing site specificity, appropriation, and master planning as an arts engagement tool. In a recent installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Gates transformed the museum’s sculpture court with spare, architectural forms fabricated from recycled wood, calling on his interest in Eastern philosophy and art. He has employed the term “critique through collaboration” and has invited a number of collaborators, including historians, artists and street museums to add their own “commentary, bling, and acts of sincerity”. Gates has recently shown in the 2010 Whitney Biennial; the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts; Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Museum for Contemporary Craft in Portland. He is currently the Director of Arts Programming and Lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. –

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