Clay and religion are foundational to the artistic practice of the Chicago based artist who has received international acclaim for his community and cultural interventions in Black space, particularly on the South Side of Chicago. As a youth, Gates joined the New Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church choir and, subsequently, studied urban planning, theology and ceramics.
A Clay Sermon is an exposition of the significance of clay, its material and spiritual legacies. Bringing together research, ideas, process and production, this exhibition surveys works by Gates across two decades from his early hand-thrown pots to his large-scale Afro-Mingei sculptures. It explores craft, labour, performance and racial identity; the use of clay in building communities of knowledge, its role in colonialism and global trade and the ceremonial and ritual use of ceramics.
Here Gates’s transformation of clay – from geological substance into utilitarian and artistic material – stands as a powerful metaphor for his socially-engaged work and wider artistic practice. This major solo exhibition of the artist’s clay-based work plays the central role in an ambitious collaboration between the Whitechapel Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Serpentine.