"Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces" at the New Museum
Where the Gods Are Present
10. November 2022
All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects
Three floors of the New Museum in New York City are devoted to artist Theaster Gates. Young Lords and Their Traces is the first American museum survey exhibition on an artist known for a diverse output that embraces sculpture, painting, video, performance, historical archives, and even urban planning.
The Chicago-based artist was present at a press preview of the exhibition the day before it opened on November 10 (it runs until February 5, 2023). But before Theaster Gates spoke to the assembled journalists, World-Architects included, in the lobby of the New Museum, he was spotted on the fourth floor of the museum, manipulating a Hamond B3 organ: holding down some keys and inserting wooden shims between them, eventually getting up once the wall-mounted Leslie speakers were making sounds to his liking. Downstairs, Gates explained that he imagined the fourth-floor gallery as "a kind of Doric temple," an "honorific space where the gods are present." Returning to the fourth floor after the artist's remarks in the lobby, the drone of the organ continued — sans the artist, as it most likely will be played on selected days during the duration of the exhibition — taking on a stronger resonance than earlier. The new, site-specific piece, A Heavenly Chord, is but one artwork — albeit a standout one — in a diverse yet cohesive, and very rewarding exhibition. Below is a visual tour through Young Lords and Their Traces, which moves across the three gallery floors of the New Museum in the recommended order, from the second floor up to the fourth floor.