Posts Tagged ‘The Black Image Corporation – Theaster Gates’

Art | Theaster Gates: Back to Black

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Photographs by Isaac Sutton

The Black Image Corporation

Fondazione Prada
Milan | Italy
20 September > 14 January 2019

Chicago’s Mayor has called the artist, Theaster Gates, ‘…a civic treasure on a par with Chicago’s skyline and downtown museums.’ Quite an accolade for the son of a roofer whose father bequeathed him his tar kettle – a gift not lost on Gates, for whom tar has become a key element in his painting and sculpture work, as in the centre-piece of his Black Madonna exhibition, currently on show at Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland.

Having studied urban planning and city design, as well as religion and ceramics, Gates spent 15 years making pots, an activity through which, he says, ‘you very quickly learn how to make great things out of nothing … [and] start to learn how to shape the world.’

Gates, whose Rebuild Foundation bought up condemned buildings in the deprived, predominantly African American South Side district of Chicago and refurbished and repurposed them as community facilities: apartments, a library, workshops for artists, a black cinema – he financed each project by selling artworks made from the scrap material from the previous renovation – led Art Review to refer to him as, ‘The artist who does more outside the gallery than within.’

Photographs by Moneta Sleet Jr

Adept at turning preconceived ideas about himself and his work on their heads, for his show at Fondazione Prada Osservatorio Theaster Gates has created a time-capsule of a seminal period in black magazine publishing, within the gallery space. Having dug deep into the Johnson Publishing Company’s 4-million-strong image archive from its ground-breaking Ebony and Jet magazines, that includes photographs of positive everyday events and of the complex realities black Americans faced in the USA during the post-war years, Gates displays his emotive selection on an interactive structure. Elsewhere, furnishings and interior design elements from the company’s mid-century modern Chicago offices, known as the Ebony/Jet Building – a designated Chicago Landmark – are arranged as a comfortable environment, where visitors can browse through original copies of Ebony and Jet.

Former deputy sheriff Isaac Sutton (1923 > 1995), who photographed the first group of images above, became a staff photographer at JPC, and worked there for 42 years, developing intimate friendships with some of the most famous names in show business.

Moneta Sleet Jr (1926 > 1996), whose images appear immediately above, who began working for Ebony magazine in 1955, was the first African-American man to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 – for his photograph of the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. Among many others, he photographed Muhammad Ali, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, and Billie Holiday.

Appropriately, The Black Image Corporation is on show at Milan’s Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, located within the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built between 1865 and 1967, which was damaged by bombing in 1943 but is now fully restored.

Photos Moneta Sleet Jr and Isaac  Sutton, courtesy Fondazione Prada Osservatorio

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