Whitechapel Gallery, White Cube and V&A, London
This sprawling trio of exhibitions collects objects from many sources, marked by sometimes traumatic history, alongside Gates’s own, magnificent work
Beautiful things and broken things, horrible racist figurines and gorgeous pottery slathered in tar. Bricks and pots and a west African female ancestor figure fired at such a high temperature it cracked and warped and the head fell off. A rickshaw laden with bowls and plates, an old brick-press from Ohio, piles of glazed bricks and a pallet of bricks waiting to build a wall or a house. Theaster Gates’s A Clay Sermon at the Whitechapel is filled with objects and histories, stories and encounters. It is part of a sprawling trio of exhibitions that also includes an intervention in the ceramics galleries at the V&A and a concurrent show at White Cube Mason’s Yard. Next year Gates takes on the annual Serpentine pavilion commission, where the project will culminate.
Gates recounts being asked by his teacher: ‘Why are you making a Japanese bowl? Your family is from Mississippi, why aren’t you making a Mississippi bowl?’