Theaster Gates on how his new show was inspired by the eviction of 45 people from an island in Maine

Posted in Arts, Europe, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-02-11 01:14Z by Steven

Theaster Gates on how his new show was inspired by the eviction of 45 people from an island in Maine

The Art Newspaper
2019-02-01

Anna Swansom

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates ©Theaster Gates; Photo: Julian Salinas

The Chicago-based artist’s exhibition in Paris examines the forced removal in 1911 of the inhabitants of Malaga Island

The US artist Theaster Gates has taken the eviction of a mixed-race community from a small island in Maine as the starting point for his first solo exhibition in France, opening this month at the Palais de Tokyo. In 1912, 45 people from Malaga Island were evicted by the state authorities and eight of them were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded following the state’s purchase of the island in 1911. The island, a poor fishing village of black, white and mixed-race people, was ridiculed in a Maine newspaper as a “strange community” of “peculiar people”; its eviction has recently been described by a US documentary as having been motivated by economics, racism, eugenics and political retribution.

Through new works including sculptures, a film and a video, the Chicago-based artist has developed the wide-ranging project and exhibition, Amalgam, which explores the complexity of interraciality and migratory histories. The show has been organised by Katell Jaffrès and has received support from Regen Projects, Richard Gray Gallery and White Cube.

The Art Newspaper: How did you become interested in the history of Malaga Island and how did this lead to Amalgam?

Theaster Gates: I had started a residency in 2017 at Colby College in Maine and was visiting a friend who said there was this important, not well-known history about this island that used to have black and mixed-race people that were evicted. We were in a boat and he suggested having lobsters on the adjacent island before checking it out. So I learned of it quite leisurely and then started to do research.

The idea of interracial mixing led to the creation of a sculptural form, “amalgam”: a by-product of what happens when one artistic form from history meets another one to create a new kind of work. I wanted to create a bridge that would make people more curious about this island and for people who are of mixed race and from backgrounds where their parents are of different religions, I wanted Malaga to be a place where all mixes felt that they had a home. The beauty of mixing is one of the cornerstones of the exhibition…

Read the interview article here.

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How the slave trade shaped the Baroque

Posted in Articles, Arts, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery on 2014-09-03 18:35Z by Steven

How the slave trade shaped the Baroque

The Art Newspaper
Focus, Issue 260, September 2014

Emanoel Araujo, Founder, Head Curator and Director
Museu AfroBrasil, SĂŁo Paulo, Brazil

As Catholicism spread across the colonies, slaves and freedmen created a uniquely Brazilian style

The Baroque movement that spread across the Portuguese and Spanish colonies has been important to the Catholic hegemony of the New World since 1500. The image of the cross was used as a powerful symbol of evangelisation so that the work of the Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans and other religious brotherhoods and third orders could add European men and women, Indians and Africans to the Christian faith that developed as the glue binding a new era during the 17th and 18th centuries in Brazil.

Wild and tropical Brazil was the ideal environment for a new aesthetic, which was made a reality through the force of the colonisers and through slaves from West and Central Africa, who overflowed from the country’s sugar mills to the gold and diamond mines of Minas Gerais state.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh

Black and mixed-race slaves and freedmen were fundamental in the building of one of the richest periods in Brazilian art. In the midst of many disgraces, their vision shows the impact of miscegenation in the culture of the national Baroque.

The Baroque ideal meant the transformation in curves of the tenets of Classical art. It was the great spectacle of the forms of nature mixed with a strongly angled geometry in gold and white marble. Dark wood was put together with large panels of Portuguese blue tiles; ceilings were painted with illusionist paintings against a sensory backdrop of frankincense, myrrh and organ music.

Brazilian gold reached Portugal in tonnes, while the few bars remaining adorned the carvings of the altars of hundreds of churches, cathedrals and monasteries across the country. Artists, gilders, sculptors, woodcarvers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, cabinetmakers, carpenters and masons transformed humble chapels of rammed earth (taipa), made of wattle and daub (pau-a-pique), into monumental churches, convents and cathedrals with interiors covered in pure gold and sterling-silver devotions.

Much of this work was done by black and mixed-race slaves and freedmen, despite restrictions such as a decree banning African and African-Brazilian goldsmiths in 1621. This culminated in goldsmiths’ stalls being smashed in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia in 1766, although there are some examples of these decrees being dismissed…

Read the entire article here.

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