Informed by his training as an urban planner and sculptor, Theaster Gates produces works which develop urban spaces through performance art and the critical engagement of the public. His attempts to bridge the gap between art and life have lead to a body of work which initiates and encourages social interaction, creating vibrant urban spaces which act as grounds of social and political change. For a commissioned project at the 2012 Armory Show in New York, for instance, Gates designed much of the fair’s published materials and created spaces for conversation and social engagement, wherein he moderated pedagogical discussion using chalkboards and desks from an abandoned Chicago public school.
Gates was the 2012 winner of the Vera List Center Prize and the recipient of a Harpo Foundation Grant. In addition to his work as an artist he is active in many urban planning and rejuvenation programs in Chicago, seeking to integrate art and the daily lives of citizens. His work was included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany. His work has been exhibited at several major institutions including the Seattle Art Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Contemporary Art Museum Houston.