Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me
Theaster Gates

White Cube New York presents ‘Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me’, a solo exhibition by Theaster Gates, in which the artist creates a series of material pairings – across painting, sculpture and archival installation – indicative of musical harmonic devices.

Exhibition Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me
Artists Theaster Gates
Date 26.01.2024 - 02.03.2024
Venue White Cube, New York
all images Courtesy by the artist and White Cube

Shifting the ideology of art from visually based to metronomic, Gates explores how sound holds pain and suffering, joy, temporality, memory and contingency. The title of the exhibition honours the 1970s duet ‘Be Real Black For Me’ by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. Drawing from the echoed repetition of the phrase ‘hold me’ midway through the song, Gates explores the connections between music, composition, and the complex interactions between artistry and mental health, acknowledging the truth of Hathaway’s own profound struggles with fame and creative transmission during his lifetime.

Transforming the gallery into a tableau of personal and collective memory, the exhibition explores how sound holds pain and suffering, joy, temporality, memory and contingency, through an engagement with the history of built environments, craftsmanship and music. Highlights include the large-scale sculptural work Sweet Sanctuary, Your Embrace (2023), a piano that the artist tarred in studio, demonstrating an act of preservation that also entails rendering the object incapable of its original function. In tribute to his father’s craft as a roofer, the instrument has been tarred and wrapped in roofing materials – a technique which is likewise applied to the artist’s new series of tar paintings.

In his Kohler sink sculpture, Radical Prioritizing: 1840s Style (2010), Gates commemorates the histories of Black craftsmanship, paying homage to Dave Drake (‘Dave the Potter’), an enslaved potter from South Carolina known for inscribing his clay works with poetic couplets and his signature. Three multi-part installations draw from the archival holdings of the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), the Chicago-based publisher renowned for producing Ebony and Jet, two iconic lifestyle magazines that became fixtures in Black households across the US. In the same gallery space, towering at nearly ten feet high, ‘The Duet’ (2023) comprises two bronze vessels through which Gates honours the legacy of form and ceramics at an architectural scale.

Coalescing the past 15 years of Gates’s socially engaged practice as an artist, archivist and urban planner, the exhibition stands as a dedication to both the rich legacies and irreducible influence of Black culture and craft.

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