In Conversation: Charles Gaines and Mark Godfrey
On the occasion of the exhibition ‘Charles Gaines. Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces’, the artist’s first ever solo exhibition in the UK featuring new works across both galleries at Hauser & Wirth London, curator Mark Godfrey joined Gaines in conversation.
About the Exhibition
On view until 1 May 2021 ‘Charles Gaines. Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces’, the artist’s first ever solo exhibition in the UK, features new works across both galleries at Hauser & Wirth London. Comprising two new bodies of Gaines’ critically acclaimed Plexiglas gridworks, the exhibition includes his institutionally heralded ‘Numbers and Trees’ and ‘Numbers and Faces’ series. With this exhibition, Gaines continues to engage formulas and systems that interrogate relationships between the objective and the subjective realms, as well as navigating ideas around identity and diversity. Gaines’ distinctive and generative approach forges a critical link between first generation American conceptualists and subsequent generations of artists who are pushing the limits of conceptualism today.
The newest chapter in Gaines’ long-established practice comes in the form of ‘Numbers and Faces: Multi-Racial/Ethnic Combinations Series 1’, a continuation of the ‘Faces’ series that Gaines began in 1978. In this newest series, Gaines creates an amalgam of faces within one artwork and seeks to interrogate ideas of representation, and more specifically the political and cultural ideas that shape one’s understanding of the concept of multi-racial identity. In preparing for this work, Gaines searched for people who self-identified as multi-racial or multi-ethnic and invited them to be part of the work. Gaines states, ‘I believe that the system of mapping these faces over a series can, itself, become meaningful by being drawn into an analogy with certain concepts of human reproduction such as heredity, genealogy, descent, lineage, genetics, etc., concepts that exist within the same domain. One of the main issues that interests me in working with systems is that, at a certain point, its relationship to any idea is arbitrary.’
About Charles Gaines
Charles Gaines (b. 1944, Charleston SC) lives and works in Los Angeles and has been a member of the CalArts School of Art faculty since 1989, where he recently established a fellowship to provide critical scholarship support for Black students in the M.F.A Art programme. Gaines has been the subject of numerous exhibitions in the United States and around the world, most notably a mid-career survey at the Pomona College Museum of Art and the Pitzer College Art Gallery in Claremont CA, as well as a museum survey of his Gridwork at The Studio Museum, Harlem NY, and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles CA.
Gaines’ work is included in prominent public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York NY; The Studio Museum, Harlem NY; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago IL; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany; Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, Esslingen, Germany; Villa Merkel, Esslingen, Germany; and Lentos Museum, Linz, Austria. His work has also been presented at the 1975 Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2015. In addition to his artistic practice, Gaines has published several essays on contemporary art, including ‘Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism’ (University of California, Irvine, 1993) and ‘The New Cosmopolitanism’ (California State University, Fullerton, 2008). In 2019, Gaines received the 60th Edward MacDowell Medal.
About Mark Godfrey
Dr. Mark Godfrey is a curator and art historian based in London. Between 2007 and 2021, he was Senior Curator at Tate Modern where he worked on several major exhibitions including retrospectives of Roni Horn, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Alighiero Boetti and Franz West. Outside Tate he curated shows by Christopher Williams, R.H. Quaytman, and David Hammons. He is the winner of the Absolut Prize for art writing and was a jury member for the Venice Biennale in 2017. That year he was also the co-curator with Zoe Whitley of the acclaimed exhibition ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’. The ‘Soul of a Nation Reader’ is published next month by Gregory R. Miller & Co. Godfrey is currently working on projects with Anicka Yi, Laura Owens and Jacqueline Humphries.