Theaster Gates: Amalgam at Tate Liverpool
December 13, 2019 through May 3, 2020
Opening Night Artist Talk December 12
Theaster Gates: Amalgam is an opportunity to see how Gates’s Lunder Institute appointment and his time in Maine have influenced his artistic practice. On December 12, the Lunder Institute is sponsoring an artist talk at the Museum of Liverpool in which Gates will be in conversation with scholar Michael Ralph (Associate Professor and Director of Africana Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the School of Medicine, New York University), and London-based fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner.
Previously presented at Palais de Tokyo (Paris) last winter, Amalgam originated in 2018, when Gates researched the history of Maine’s Malaga Island during his first year as our distinguished visiting artist. He created parts of the video Dance of Malaga on a bleak November visit to the island. Shortly after, Gates developed its musical components during a creative retreat in his Waterville studio with collaborator Yaw Agyeman and other members of the Black Monks, his musical ensemble.
Gates has long been fascinated by the intersection of property ownership, land values, and racial identity. Malaga was one of several islands located in the mouth of the New Meadows River owned by Benjamin Darling, a Black man whose descendants settled on Malaga in the years following the Civil War. By the turn of the twentieth century, real estate developers and elected officials regarded the racially mixed community, visible from the mainland, as an impediment to the burgeoning tourist industry along the coast. The state purchased the island for $400 in 1911, and the following year the governor expelled all of Malaga’s residents. Some of the displaced people assimilated into near-by towns; others were involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions.
The exhibition title is both a near-anagram of Malaga and a riff on the use of “amalgam” by nineteenth-century eugenicists, for whom it denoted racial, ethnic, and religious intermingling. Taking the history of Malaga Island as a jumping-off point, Gates’s Amalgam addresses histories of the Black diaspora and the sexual aggression and racial mixing that resulted.
Featured image from home page: Still from the film Dance of Malaga, 2019. Copyright Theaster Gates and courtesy of the artist. Photo by Chris Strong.
Image above: Installation view of Amalgam at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 20 February to 12 May, 2019. Copyright Theaster Gates and courtesy of the artist. Photo by Chris Strong.