“Procession” Debuts at the Hirshhorn Sept. 21

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden announces a new public program series curated by world-renowned artist Theaster Gates. “Processions,” a series of four collaborative performances to take place throughout the next year, will introduce unexpected and unexplored connections between sacred music, African and African American culture and history, theater, world dance and chant. >The inaugural performance Wednesday, Sept. 21, coincides with the historic opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture Sept. 24.  

To produce “Processions,” Gates will bring together a different ensemble of noted local, national and international artists and musicians for each event. The first performance, entitled “The Runners,” will feature students from Howard University in Washington, D.C., alongside The Black Monks of Mississippi, an experimental musical group who harmonize the Eastern ideals of melodic restraint with gospel and blues genres that are deeply rooted in the African American musical tradition. The group has performed around the world at venues such as dOCUMENTA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Blaffer Art Museum and the Serralves Foundation.

The public will be invited to experience these ever-changing performances communally, watching as “The Runners” processes through the museum. While Howard University track athletes move along the Hirshhorn’s open inner galleries, Gates and the Black Monks will weave through the outer galleries, responding to both the artworks on view and the circular shape of the building’s iconic architecture.

“We are proud to debut this unique performance series, which simultaneously challenges and explores public notions of cultural heritage, personal identity and social justice,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “Theaster’s ability to bring communities together is integral to shaping the future of the museum as we look to engage and present more artists whose bodies of work address the key issues of today.”

“As one of the world’s leading arts institutions, the Hirshhorn offers the ideal setting for ‘Field Procession,’ which reimagines the Hirshhorn as a site for black ecstasy,” Gates said. “The material world, including art but also everyday things, is so absolutely connected to the immaterial world. The music we practice allows us all to link these worlds forming something tangible and profoundly artful.”

Subsequent “Processions” will tap into the Washington region’s rich heritage of jazz, folk and gospel musicians, as well as dancers, artists and students. The second performance, planned for spring 2017, is timed to coincide with the opening of “In the Tower: Theaster Gates” at the National Gallery of Art.

Gates was born in 1973 in Chicago, where he currently lives and works. He has exhibited widely, including group shows such as the Whitney Biennial, New York (2010), dOCUMENTA (2013), Kassel (2012), “The Spirit of Utopia” at Whitechapel, London (2013) and the Studio Museum’s “When Stars Collide,” New York (2014). Solo exhibitions include “To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave, the Slave Potter” at Milwaukee Art Museum (2010), Seattle Art Museum (2011), MCA Chicago (2013), The Black Monastic residency at Museum Serralves, in Porto, Portugal (2014) and “Theaster Gates: True Value,” a major solo retrospective at the Fondazione Prada Milan, currently on view through Sept. 25. In 2013, Gates was awarded the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, and he has since won the Artes Mundi 6 prize (2015). Gates is also the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation and is currently a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. In 2015, he was elected to the board of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu/.  

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