I met with the charming, eloquent, and charismatic artist on the morning of his show’s opening to discuss how, with “Freedom of Assembly,” he has set aside his practice as an urban planner, performer, and musician to focus on the creation of physical objects.
Ben Eastham: The title “Freedom of Assembly” feels this morning—in the wake of last night’s riots in Baltimore—like an explicitly political statement. Yet the show doesn’t feel didactic, preachy, or admonitory. The political elements seem instead to be expressed through your choice of materials and the processes by which you work.
Theaster Gates: I haven’t lost my interest in the city. For this exhibition, I just thought, “What would happen if I were to muffle my beliefs, my views, my opinions? Instead, I’ll unmuffle another impulse in me, towards ‘object-making.’ What would happen if I allowed myself to express these beliefs, these opinions, through these things?”