Over the last few years, the archive artist Theaster Gates has traveled the world to produce his distinctive installations He took over the Prada Mansion in Shanghai, built a library at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and envisioned a Black Chapel at the Haus der Kunst in Munich. But clay is at the heart of it all. “Clay made me,” Gates says. “Blackness, clay, immateriality, and space are all launching pads that encourage advanced practice, reflection, trial, and iteration.” Christian scripture posits clay as a material of creation (Isaiah 64:8: “O Lord … we are the clay, and thou our potter”). Gates, too, intrigued by the geological properties of clay, believes in its possibilities for construction. Whitechapel presents two decades of Gates’s work with clay. Afro-Mingei sculptures and hand-thrown pots and vessels examine craft, labor, and racial identity. —E.C.
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