Theaster Gates pending monument unveiled at Drexel campus

Theater doors, Pending monument2020, at Drexel University (Photograph by David Evan McDowell, courtesy of Philadelphia Contemporary)

Pending monumenta sculpture of Theater doors, which was created during the turbulent summer of 2020 and first exhibited at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, is now housed on the campus of Drexel University. The sculpture, courtesy of the artist and GRAY Gallery, is presented by Philadelphia Contemporary, Forman Arts Initiative and Drexel University.

Composed of reclaimed stone plinths and granite slabs, Pending monument evokes a dismantled public forum. The work responds to ongoing socio-political dialogue and public scrutiny of historical figures and monuments, especially those that reinforce systems of oppression. This homage, like much of Gates’ work, asks viewers to consider and reconsider the materials and narratives that these spaces support and celebrate in relation to others.

“My monument work, from Black Chapel – my commissioned pavilion for Serpentine Galleries – to this non-monument in Philadelphia and the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago, brings me to grapple with the best indicators of time markers. Monuments spatially and symbolically mark time and help us conjure up meaning. Honoring the truths of a people or a time is necessary soul labor for the nation. I’m happy to be a part of it,” Gates said.

With Pending monument, Gates acknowledges the history of injustice and propaganda enforced by Confederate and colonialist monuments. The artist draws viewers through the installation, into a space to confront these historical truths and collectively aspire to a future based on equal justice. As an inscription engraved on one of the pedestals says, “Until true heroes bloom, this dusty pedestal will wait.”

“With an interest in urban planning and preservation, Gates is known for reclaiming spaces that have been left behind, and we are honored to bring his work to this part of Philadelphia. The sculpture will inspire viewers to reflect on our city’s past, present and future while engaging the next generation of leaders, today’s students,” said Harry Philbrick, Founding Director and CEO. of contemporary Philadelphia.

“Our democracy was born in Philadelphia on a set of ideals,” said Drexel University President John Fry. “Having the magnificent Theater Gates Pending monument installed in a busy pedestrian lane in the heart of the Drexel campus will give all passers-by an opportunity to pause in contemplation of how far we have come in realizing these ideals and how far we still have to go. I am grateful to the Philadelphia Contemporary and Forman Arts Initiative, for choosing the Drexel campus as the installation site for Pending monument and support this bold initiative in public art. And we are all indebted to the genius of Theaster Gates.

Pending monument is located at Drexel’s Korman Quad on 33rd Street between Chestnut and Market streets. This installation follows the University of Pennsylvania’s 2020 unveiling of A brick house by Simone Leigh – a monumental sculpture of a black woman’s head atop a shape that suggests a skirt or building – which sits on the corner of 34th and Walnut Streets, Penn’s neighboring gateway .

“Theaster Gates is one of the most exciting artists of our time,” said Michael Forman, Founder of Forman Arts Initiative. “He has a unique talent for bringing people together to think about and engage on current issues and important stories, which is evident in Pending monument. Forman Arts Initiative is pleased to partner with Philadelphia Contemporary and Drexel University, where I am honored to serve on the board, to bring one of Gates’ first public sculptures to Philadelphia. We expect the work to generate rich dialogue over the coming year on campus and beyond.”

Following the unveiling of Pending monument this summer, a series of corresponding programs will be announced in the fall. The work, which will remain installed for a year, is presented by Philadelphia Contemporary, the Forman Arts Initiative and Drexel University, courtesy of the artist and GRAY Gallery, Chicago/New York.

About the theater doors

Theaster Gates (b. 1973) was born and raised in Chicago, where he currently lives and works. Drawing on his previous professional pursuits in public service, urban planning, and religious studies, Gates strives to redeem the spaces that have been left behind, centering his practice on the possibility of “life in things.” “. Known for his recirculation of capital from the art world, Gates’ recent works possess an intersectional relationship between spatial theory and spatial planning, sculpture and performance, cleverly reversing artistic values, values land and human values. In all aspects of his work, he confronts the notion of black space as a formal exercise, defined by collective desire, artistic action and the tactics of a pragmatist.

With a famous stronghold in Chicago, Gates’ career has enjoyed international recognition from his participation in the Whitney Biennial (2010), documenta 13 (2012) and the Venice Biennial (2015), to major exhibitions museums around the world. His recent solo exhibitions include The Listening Room, Seattle Art Museum (2011-2012); 13th Ballad, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2013; Soul Manufacturing Corporation: To Make the Thing that Makes the Things, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2013); Processions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2016); True Value, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2016); Black Archive, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016); How to Build a House Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2016); The Minor Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2017); Black Madonna, Kunstmuseum Basel (2018) and Sprengel Museum, Hanover (2018); The Black Image Corporation, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2018); Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Tate Modern, London (2019) and Black Chapel, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2019. Many of Gates’ recent exhibitions, including Black Madonna and The Black Image Corporation, are part of his ongoing commitment to the Johnson Publishing Company archive.

Gates has received numerous awards and honors, including the Nasher Prize (2018), the Kurt Schwitters Award (2017), the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Award (2016), the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Social Progress (2015), and the Guardianship of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2015). Public collections include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, among many others.

About Contemporary Philadelphia

Founded in 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary is a contemporary arts organization whose mission is to connect the people and places of Philadelphia through art and partnership. Currently nomadic, Philadelphia Contemporary showcases visual art, performance art, and spoken word across the city, with the ambition to establish a non-collective, self-sustaining arts institution that is globally oriented and locally aware.

About Forman Arts Initiative

Forman Arts Initiative connects and empowers artists and cultural organizations in Philadelphia. FAI brings resources to arts and crafts in our communities.

FAI is dedicated to supporting community arts and creativity in Philadelphia through programs, rallies, and advocacy. FAI’s first initiative Works of art, developed in collaboration with the Philadelphia Foundation, will distribute $3 million to artists and community organizations over five years. In addition, ISP Stories, in partnership with The Philadelphia Citizen, is a bi-monthly interview series featuring artists and creatives from all parts of Philadelphia. This fall, FAI is launching its first artist-in-residence program.

About GRAY

GRAY is a globally recognized team of art professionals dedicated to fostering the development of historically significant artist careers and building exceptional art collections. Founded in 1963, GRAY has built its reputation as a resource for modern, post-war and contemporary art with leading private and institutional clients around the world. Known for producing critically acclaimed exhibitions and programming its galleries in Chicago and New York, GRAY represents a roster of internationally acclaimed artists such as McArthur Binion, Jim Dine, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates, David Hockney , Rashid Johnson, Alex Katz, Jaume Plensa, Leon Polk Smith and Evelyn Statsinger, among others.

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