“Theaster Gates: The Listening Room” at Seattle Art Museum

Theaster Gates is very much interested in “acts of sincerity,” and his current installation at the Seattle Art Museum is certainly that. Gates, a highly acclaimed young artist, was selected by SAM to be their 2011-2012 Gwendoyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellow. The fellowship, is awarded bi-annually to an early career black artist.

Gates describes his work as an exploration of the ways history, place, and performance intersect. His installation at SAM consists of record albums (vinyl discs from the ’60s through the ‘80s) that he bought when the Dr. Wax Record Store in Chicago’s Southside went out of business. The store, long renowned as a center for rock, hip-hop and blues music, was pivotal within the community.

In addition to the records, his installation consists of found and recycled objects—fire hoses turned into wall hangings, chairs made from the floor boards of a Chicago police station, a kneeling stand from a church. The church element has been refashioned as a DJ station and on first Sundays and first Thursdays during the exhibition, a Chicago DJ will play music. At other times, visitors can leaf through the albums in boxes on the floor and, one at a time, play a selection on the one portable record player in the center of the space.

Gates, who believes that the Chicago community’s history and politics were embedded in the store and within the music, sees the installation as drawing together community and activism in art. He invites you to discover that past as its music is presented, archived and preserved.

Through July 1, 2012, Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., Seattle. (206 654-3100 or www.seattleartmuseum.org)

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