The Minor Arts -- Theaster Gates at the NGA / by Mark Andre

I couldn't have been more pleased to attend an event at the National Gallery of Art, hearing Theaster Gates speak about his new exhibition, Minor Works. The series features found items from buildings slated for destruction. Check out some highlights from the show, opening March 5th.

His work raises more questions than it answers in the best way possible; it begs the viewer to reflect on the meaning of preservation in our society. Questioning if we preserve something for preservation's sake: "Thinking about preservation as the only concern, without concern for the new user, shuts the door to future use." Rather, Gates asserts, it is better to find the union when "Care for the old matches with existing things that matter." 

Gates discussing the work, standing in front of New Egypt Sanctuary of the Holy Word and Image

The tower gallery is dominated by Slate Corridor for the Possibility of Speaking in Tongues and Depositing Ghetto Reliquary (Right) and A Game of My Own (Left)

Rather than re-scrimmaging the floors of an old gym exactly as it was when the building was conceived, his version of preservation uses the planks and the evidence of the lines on them to create color studies. They reveal the texture and wear of the time these materials gave to the buildings they created. These pieces create a more intimate relationship than was ever possible when they were simply a roof or a floor. A Game of My Own (pictured above) challenges those normal ways we protect the old without a thought about better engaging the present and future. This and Other examples of similar work are stunning pieces of social commentary on the plight of historic structures in our culture.

While referring to the slate roof of a demolished catholic church from the south side of Chicago Gates seeks to "re-sacrilize" the object that housed the sacred and continue to use it to create great things.