“True Value” —the first exhibition by Theaster Gates (Chicago, 1973) in Milan— brings together a selection of existing works and new commissions in two different spaces at Fondazione Prada.
The Cisterna features works in which the artist explores habitual, everyday things, immersed in the most evocative Black aesthetics. Gates operates on the conviction that everyday objects convey a deep understanding, not only intrinsic to their material aspect, but reminiscent of the experiences in which they have been immersed. In that sense, discarded materials involving collective memories constitute the catalyst for a political and aesthetic reflection on cultural renewal and social activism. Fire hoses used against demonstrators during the US Civil Rights movements in the 1960s or gym floors from dozens high schools closed and fallen into oblivion, swept under an unbeatable neoliberal economic agenda, turned into artworks in which formalism is not just a mere visual factor. This transformative ethos, from which a symbolic universal value emanates, is key in Gates’s practice. These everyday objects, together with other items and elements referencing more ritualistic and spiritual experiences, shape the proposal offered to the public in the Cisterna.
On the first floor of the Podium, Gates hosts True Value (2016) —the installation after which the exhibition is named— which presents his rendition of an abandoned hardware store. True Value gathers materials, objects and tools removed from their original context and relocated in an art environment, deploying a framework to formulate a poetic and pragmatic space around objects of trade and human relationships those economic and labour exchanges create.
Video: Andrea Cavallari