Theaster Gates, Mama’s Milk, 2018, metal, neon, 114 × 116 × 12 3⁄4".

Theaster Gates, Mama’s Milk, 2018, metal, neon, 114 × 116 × 12 3⁄4".

Theaster Gates


Three neon signs punctuate Theaster Gates’s powerful installation of new paintings and sculptures. Progress Mill, 2018, the only work occupying the spacious entrance gallery, takes the form of a single generic infographic. White and red neon tubes delineate the circular symmetry of a reductive pie chart outlined in black, seemingly bereft of any textual information but in fact adapted from W. E. B. Du Bois’s visualizations of Black demographics in the United States in 1900—specifically Du Bois’s black-and-red line drawing titled “Proportions of Whites and Negroes in the different classes of occupations in the United States.” (Such statistical diagrams were also a source for a series of paintings and drawings that Gates began in 2014.) The title and graphic language of Progress Mill, divorced from its specific conclusions, point toward the clichés of social and technological advancement,

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