Theaster Gates’ Listening Stools, one of the sculptural forms in the exhibit The Listening Room, have helped transform SAM’s Knight-Lawrence Gallery into an open space for music and ideas. Their design may be simple and made from recycled wood, coming from the floorboards of a Chicago police station, but the stools invite visitors to sit, relax, and engage with the art, music and each other. They often lead guests to converse about a record they’re currently holding, and I can’t say how many people have learned to play their first 33 1/3” vinyl record on a turn table while sitting in one of these modest wooden chairs.
Although his artistic training is in ceramics Gates’ sculpted pieces for The Listening Room draw from his seemingly endless resources using recycled lumber as a medium that allows him to transcend artistic traditions and place focus on social engagement through discarded materials-come-art. The Listening Stools are one of these unlikely art objects carrying a history in their structure. Other lumber materials present in the exhibit are the ware board record crates (see below), the original sandwich board from Dr. Wax’s record store made to look like a Japanese Shoji screen, and the entirely recycled wood deejay table faced with a carved wooden altar screen sourced from a defunct Chicago church.
Another example of Gates’ material repurposing is his Temple Exercises (2009) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which constructed a temple-like structure from modular ware boards from the abandoned Wrigley Gum factory in the heart of Chicago. This became a site for spiritual exercises and performance by groups such as Gates’ own ensemble, the Black Monks of Mississippi. The same Wrigley ware boards are used in the Listening Room for the record crates that accompany the turntable in the middle of the gallery in which visitors are invited to peruse records and listen in on headphones at any time during museum hours.
“I’m one person,” says Gates, “one whole person who thinks about friendship and neighborliness and God as much as I think about object making.” His chairs achieve the sense of transformation that Gates’ work self-consciously seeks to convey. Inherent in this transformation is the vinyl vertebrae lining the back wall of the gallery: Dr. Wax’s Record Archive. Entering the gallery for the first time viewers are perhaps not expecting to see a long shelf of records and deejay table. Set into the back wall Dr. Wax’s records are joined with the musical sounds that can be heard emanating from the gallery before visitors even enter the space. They are immediately faced with the aural and visual qualities of this kinesthetic installation and find themselves asking the question “How do I engage with this art?” By the time visitors reach the Listening Stools, they have intoned through osmosis the intertwining themes of music, history, politics, and space that are addressed by the exhibit. It is the music’s audio ability to communicate cultural, political, and artistic history to a public willing and able to engage that brings meaning to the lumber-made objects present in the gallery and comes full circle to connect the archive of cultural knowledge to its listeners.
-Ryan R. Peterson, Curatorial + Community Engagement Intern
 Art In America, December 2011, p. 126
Last photo: SAM patrons Faye Peterson and Mike O’Brien browsing records in the Listening Room. Photograph by author. JPEG file.
We have really enjoyed the Beauty Shot Fridays project that we put together to give people an opportunity to respond to the themes in our Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed exhibitions.
Last week we asked, “What does ‘green’ mean to you?” and offered two tickets to Beauty & Bounty to the photographer behind our favorite photo.
SAM staff member Liz Stone selected the winner. Liz is a digital media assistant and a member of the SAM Goes Green Team. Of the winning entry she said, “I like this photo for its simple act of gratitude. Green means all of the things people posted here and more but I found that in almost all of the submissions this week there was a sentiment of gratitude in them. Whether it was the appreciation of a backyard wonderland, or a velvety forest full of life, to the recognition of all the possibilities Earth provides―it never hurts to take a moment―and a breath―and thank the Earth for its bounty.”
Congratulations to Atsuko Nagakura! She was the photographer behind our favorite “green” Beauty Shot. There were many great pictures to choose from. Click here to see the complete album.
Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed close September 11 so this week’s Beauty Shot Fridays question is our final one. We want to know: How has your landscape changed?
Send your photo response to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 pm on Friday. Our favorite photo will win a $25 SAM gift card and a copy of Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast: A Superb Vision of Dreamland by SAM curator, Patricia Junker.
-Madeline Moy, Digital Media Manager
This week’s Beauty Shot Friday highlights our current exhibition Reclaimed, which focuses on contemporary artists and how they find inspiration in nature and question our relationship to it. This week’s question was: How have you personalized and/or reclaimed your outdoor space?
In hopes of procuring more sun from the sky this week, we asked people to send us photos of their summertime fun in the sun. Photos did not have to be of Seattle or from this summer but could be of anything sun- and summer-related. I’ve selected a few of our brightest submissions from last week and written some of my thoughts on them… Continue Reading…
People in Seattle make the most of the all-too-short summers and so does SAM! We’ve got a diverse array of art exhibitions, events and experiences at all three of our sites this summer. Whether you’re interested in Bollywood, baseball, yoga or landscape painting, we’ve got you covered.
From the PR Office at SAM comes a new and fun project called “Beauty Shot Fridays.” In order to promote Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed, we are asking our Facebook Fans to send us photos in response to a weekly question that is based on themes in the exhibitions.
We will update our question on the SAM Facebook page every Monday by 3pm and submissions will be uploaded to the page every Friday by 4pm. If you’d like to send a photo submission (captions are welcome too!), please email email@example.com
Our question this is week is: where do you find beauty and bounty in your day?
Seattle-based artist Whiting Tennis explores transformation in Bovine, a large hollow structure made of found plywood. Recalling a covered wagon, he has outfitted it with tools that would be necessary for survival in uncharted territories. However, masquerading as part animal and part domesticated site, Bovine is directionless, lost in the wilderness with its windows boarded and four stationary legs that were once wagon wheels. As if to conjure an image of isolation and the frontier experience, Tennis includes a soundtrack, Alone & Forsaken,
by the legendary Hank Williams, whose forlorn music is heard emanating from inside the structure. Fittingly, Tennis often refers to this sculpture as “The Oregon Trail Reversed”—decay and renewal were part of his concept when creating this work.
“Bovine,” 2006, Whiting Tennis, American, born 1959, lumber, found plywood and found objects and CD, 102 x 168 x 90 in., Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, friends of Whiting Tennis, and the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006.134, image courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery, © Whiting Tennis. On view starting 30 June, in “Reclaimed: Nature and Place through Contemporary Eyes,” Special Exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.