Learn about the value of found objects and everyday materials, in this clip of season 8 of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century, as Theaster Gates uses ordinary but unconventional materials to create unique sculptures and artworks. Gates, who has a background in Urban Planning and Ceramics, uses tar for a many of his works. Tar is typically used for roofing and an element that is essential to ensure shelter and housing for people everywhere. Gates, whose father was a roofer, point out that materials and components like these are taken for granted when in reality, they are an essential part of people’s lives.
By using these disregarded materials, he is creating something out of seemingly nothing and forcing it in front of the viewer, which is meant to create a new appreciation and newfound value for the everyday objects he incorporates in his art. He first started working with tar as his main medium, when his father retired and passed on his roofing tools to him. They collaborated on a series of works over time, which the artist now calls “a breakthrough moment”. Through his band The Black Monks of Mississippi, Gates is looking to create and invent new music genres. He combines his family’s history in Mississippi and the songs he had learned there as a child, with the gospel genre, to create and initiate new types of music and sounds in his community.