Critics’ Picks

View of “Soul Manufacturing Corporation,” 2012.

View of “Soul Manufacturing Corporation,” 2012.


Theaster Gates

Locust Projects
3852 North Miami Avenue
November 10–December 21, 2012

“Soul Manufacturing Corporation” is both the title of Theaster Gates’s latest exhibition and the name of a cottage industry he recently started, currently staffed by three master potters—Matthew Dercole and Pei-Hsuan Wang of Chicago, and Yoko Fukata of Aichi, Japan. In the present iteration, the three artists make “things” (Gates’s term) out of clay during normal gallery hours. Dercole uses a traditional handmade mold to pound out about twenty bricks a day, Fukata throws pottery, and Wang slip casts a series of sculptures that roughly mimic the shapes of items like candlesticks and teapots but lack use-value. Moreover, Gates is purposefully vague as to the destination of the objects: Will they be sold in the white cube as art, or will they go on to furnish one of his many community efforts, such as Dorchester Projects, 2009, where the artist rehabilitated an abandoned Chicago house to include a library, slide archive, and restaurant?

To house this workshop, Locust Projects was retrofitted using reclaimed wood from Chicago. Two pallets of specially mixed clay, named Black Soul and Soul Manufacturing Corporation, bracket the entrance. A wall of shelves allows for the three types of things to dry before they are fired in the bisque kiln near the back. The three potters are found working the clay, often in silence, at a long worktable in the center of the room, behind which are a small open chamber and a DJ stand/pulpit that are used throughout the exhibition by a DJ, a bilingual reader of selected texts, and a yoga teacher to rejuvenate the workers. This programming is regularly scheduled and open to the public. Finally, in the front of the gallery is Rickshaw for Fossilized Soul Wares, 2012, a cart filled with black concrete from which several glazed, fired bowls partially protrude. Like the rest of the exhibition/factory, it’s unclear whether these artifacts are emerging from, or vanishing into, the conditions of their own making.