Charles Gaines, ‘Notes on Social Justice: Freedom's Jubilee! (1865)’, 2014, CalArts Benefit

To create the works in his “Notes on Social Justice” series, conceptual artist Charles Gaines meticulously draws blown-up versions sheet music from old songs—in this case, an 1865 spiritual celebrating the end of the Civil War, whose lyrics have been replaced with an incongruous political message.

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Image rights: Courtesy of the artist

About Charles Gaines

In diverse and intellectually complex works, Charles Gaines explores the accidental, the tension between logical systems and the human hand, and the ways in which meaning is derived from art. Gaines cites John Cage as a major influence, and much of his work dwells on chance: Airplanecrash Clock (1997) is a kinetic sculpture in which a model plane repeatedly nose-dives to the ground, while text-and-photo pieces in “Absent Figures” (2000-01) record fatal mountaineering disasters on Mount Rainier in Washington. For Manifestos (2008), a collection of digital videos, musical compositions, and drawings, Gaines developed a system for translating excerpts from four revolutionary manifestos of the 20th century into musical scores, which play on speakers alongside the texts. Gaines is also interested in environmental degradation; Greenhouse (2007) is a sculptural enclosure whose lights and environmental conditions shift according to computer-generated readings of air pollution levels in California.

American, b. 1944, Charleston, South Carolina, based in Los Angeles, California