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Director’s Lecture Series 2016–2017, Lecture 6: Theaster Gates’s Civil Tapestry 5, 2012

By Dr. Janne Sirén, Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

6:30 pm - 8 pm EDT

Theaster Gates (American, born 1973). Civil Tapestry 5, 2012. Decommissioned fire hoses on oil cloth mounted on wood panel, 58 x 208 x 4 inches (147.3 x 528.3 x 10.2 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, 2014 (2014:3a-b). © 2012 Theaster Gates. Photograph by Ben Westoby, courtesy White Cube.

5:30–6:30 pm, Reception
6:30–7:30 pm, Lecture
7:30–8 pm, Questions & Conversation

$85 general admission 
$65 for Members (FREE for Members at the Andy Warhol Circle and higher)
$35 for students (with valid student ID)
Series Tickets and Scholarships


The history of America’s long struggle for civil rights is one of Theaster Gates’s predominant themes. He directly approaches this subject in a series of objects and paintings (2010–onward) fashioned from decommissioned fire hoses. The fire hoses employed by Gates are well used, but traces of text—specifying where they were fabricated, their gauge, and compliance with various fire codes—are sometimes still legible. In the context of Gates’s work, these practical details take on a variety of connotations. The hoses in Civil Tapestry 5, for example, read “1962,” and “Compton, Calif.,” a hub of African American culture as well as gang violence. 1962 was the year deadly riots erupted over racial integration of the University of Mississippi, and President Kennedy was forced to deploy Federal Marshals to ensure the safety of James Meredith, the lone African-American student admitted there. Theaster Gates pictures a world in which this moment in American history has infiltrated everything—even works of apparent abstraction. This lecture will be the first opportunity for an in-depth discussion of the true importance of this recent acquisition and of Gates’s international prominence in contemporary art.

About the 2016-2017 Director's Lecture Series

This year’s Director’s Lecture Series presents the story of six timely—and timeless—works of art that help define the continuing greatness of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The series is designed by Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén and presented by Dr. Sirén, Deputy Director Dr. Joe Lin-Hill, and Senior Curator Dr. Cathleen Chaffee. Learn More and View Series Schedule

Program Sponsors

The Director's Lecture Series is made possible, in part, through the generous support of HSBC Bank USA, N.A. Additional support has been provided by WSF Industries, Inc.