Theaster Gates is familiar with speaking about the presence of racism within the United States. Through his art, Gates has continually set social practice as a priority. Committed to bringing awareness to urban planning and the revitalization of poor neighborhoods, Gates produces installation art designed with a specific outcome in mind; awareness.
He has continued this connective artistic practice with "But to Be a Poor Race". The work is a visualization of historical facts and data collected and recorded by W.E.B. DuBois. Exploring the lives of post-Emancipation slaves, DuBois calculated the number of black people who owned land, had professional degrees, or gained other semblances of status within society. Gates utilizes this information to recount the historical significance and defined facts of racism and poverty. Through sculpture and painted works, Gates produced graphs and measurements as the artistic visual data.
Subtle, but to the point, Gates' offers work that has a definitive answer. Although aesthetic analysis is a main factor with the pieces, their contextual basis provides factual information to digest. Sometimes hard to swallow, it also begs to ask questions regarding our current state of racial issues and its continued presence within our society. Gates's previous and continued work in social and activist roles is beautifully imagined through his art, his point gracefully conveyed.