CHICAGO.- A gallery is transformed into a temple-like environment where complex issues of race, spirituality, and aesthetics are confronted with the hope of unifying disparate communities. Chicago artist and urban planner Theaster Gates, Jr. merges visual and performance art at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago to stimulate and build communal and social interaction. Gates creates sculptures and installations, performs musically, and hosts unique events during his exhibition, Theaster Gates: Temple Exercises, on view through February 1, 2009.
Temple Exercises references the African-American church as well as the structure and aesthetic of Japanese Buddhist temples. The gallery is designed to be a contemplative space and Gates invites visitors to reflect upon and participate in spiritual expression, sustenance, and service. Sculptural forms manifest these ideas and at various times during the exhibition Gates enacts several exercises, such as a performance by the Black Monks of Mississippi, a group of musicians who fuse African-American spirituals with Asian chants, to celebrate the exhibition opening on January 6 at 6 pm. Additional events takes place in the MCA gallery on January 13, 5-5:30 pm and January 20, 6-7 pm.
Gates believes rituals of devotion and service are inherent to both Asian and African-American spiritual traditions, and his exercises focus on how members of the African-American church often carry "churchness into their daily activities. Gates extends the project beyond the MCA, inviting visitors to move across the city to engage in urban rituals at three different places: Little Black Pearl, where Gates has involved their workforce development team in fabricating Temple Exercises and where another temple structure is on view; Shine King, where Gates regularly takes part in the ritual of getting his shoes shined; and Sonotheque, a music club that plans to host Shout, a night focused on the spiritual roots that have shaped, soul, house, and early black secular music.