As an admirer of art and social justice, it’s great to see my friend and revolutionary artist, Theaster Gates, reaching new heights in his career.

Gates debuted his first major American museum survey at the New Museum in NYC that commemorates the people who shaped his worldview. “Young Lords and Their Traces” is an exhibition honoring the radical thinkers in Gates’ life, his hometown of Chicago, and the U.S. as a whole. He is a visual artist, urban planner, and self-described “artist, bureaucrat, and hustler.” Gates creates multimedia projects, installations, and performance art that confront issues of social justice, racial inequality, and poverty across America.

The exhibit is Gates’ first in New York and is composed of around 100 objects spread over three floors. It surveys the past decade of his career and highlights his latest pieces that consider the lasting influences of lost friends, family, and Black radical innovators – such as the Nigerian-American curator Okwui Enwezor, the Black feminist writer bell hooks, the designer Virgil Abloh, and his father.  

Gates has an impressive resume regarding community impact in Chicago and beyond. This show is a perfect example of his ability to make creative and meaningful connections with people and history. The exhibit reflects the passing of his influences and the possibilities of their ideas. Gates sees his muses as latter-day Young Lords, a Puerto Rican organization founded in Chicago in 1969, formerly condemned by the white establishment as a street gang, now recognized as an important force in community activism.

A large portion of Gates’ work is considered “social practice installation art,” meaning that it involves people and communities, an essential way to bring groups together and be a symbolic voice for underserved demographics. His goal is to connect Black people to their past and each other using various tools – and he does an incredible job. 

If you’re in the area, check out the exhibit through Feb 25th, 2023! 

Learn more about the exhibition here.