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Theaster Gates’s Emotional Confrontation With Racism

gesamtkunstwerk encompassing sculpture, photography, sound, and architecture, Black Chapel almost literally transforms the museum into a place of worship. Two mirrored, iceberg-shaped sculptures on rotating platforms — housebergs, as Gates calls them — create a disco-like atmosphere in the central hall while R&B records from the collection of the Black American Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens (1913–80) are softly audible from the adjacent room. Two monumental illuminated advertising boxes fill the room with the presence of gorgeous Black women. The compelling images from the 1960s and ’70s are from the archives of Ebony and Jet, Johnson Publishing Company’s landmark magazines — the first mainstream magazines in the US addressed to Black readers. Gates confronts viewers with Black history in America, as well as systemic racism, by interweaving his installation visually and conceptually with the monumental Haus der Kunst, a major German museum for contemporary art built under Hitler’s orders in Munich in 1933-37.

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